Pathologist who examined Amber and Christine finds himself questioned over time of death.

Week six, and the end of the Mark Lundy murder trial is only sort of nigh. But the prosecution is nearly done with its list of 144 witnesses, and the defence has already called three of its own experts. So many voices, so many words ... the stand, the witnesses come and go, some talking fast, some talking slow. Many fade from memory. Yesterday, though, one of the strangest characters in the Lundy saga had his day in court.

Dr James Pang conducted the autopsies on the bodies of Christine Lundy and her daughter Amber. They had been killed on the night of August 30, 2000, in their home in Palmerston North. Mark Lundy, a sink salesman, was away on business, staying in a motel in Petone; the Crown says he drove home in the middle of the night, executed his family, and slipped back to the motel.

But this is what they say now. They created a very different narrative at Lundy's first trial, in 2002, when the prosecution case was that Lundy committed the murders at 7pm - there was a round-trip at lunatic speeds, and he got back to the motel in time to order an alibi in the shape of a prostitute.

He was found guilty. The conviction was later thrown out by the Privy Council which had considered Dr Pang's 7pm theory.

Advertisement

Its origins were recorded by the first witness to appear yesterday.

In 2000, Inspector Brett Calkin was put in charge of Amber's body. He talked about going to the house and putting on paper overalls. Amber's body lay in the hallway. Calkin and two other officers approached her. The winter's day, the police caravan parked outside. The silent house, the murdered 7-year-old girl, the big footsteps of strangers in the Lundy hallway - there was such kindness in the way Calkin said her name.

"We placed Amber in the back of a hearse ... Her body was stored in a refrigerator, and I locked the door and used a padlock which only has one key that I held on to ... I removed Amber from the fridge and took her to the main room."

She was weighed at 9.25pm. Her body was washed at 10.52pm prior to the autopsy. At 12.45pm, Dr Pang opened her stomach, and Calkin wrote down what he said: "The contents are possibly potato, maybe fish, maybe meat, no apparent vegetables." Maybe food: her last meal was from McDonald's. And then Calkin read out Pang's assessment: "Most likely death has occurred within one hour of the meal."

Pang was next on the stand. He was small, even rather petite, with very black hair thinning at the temples, and a puffy face.

Most witnesses lean forward. Pang leaned back in his chair. The microphone had to be bent towards him.

Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk, making a rare speaking appearance in court, questioned him for an hour. Most of the time Pang talked about the appalling injuries that Amber and Christine suffered. Vanderkolk led Pang into intimate detail. "Seven large gaping cut wounds ... 80mm in length and 5cm in depth ... The major portion of the front half of the brain was missing", etc.

The issue of stomach contents was raised twice, briefly; and both times Pang's voice came out in a terrible croak, and he guzzled down water to soothe his troubled throat.

Advertisement

He drank quite a lot during the afternoon when he was cross-examined by David Hislop, QC. It began so tenderly. "Sir," said Hislop, "if I can take you through your post-mortem of Amber Grace Lundy? Thank you."

Pang was quick to state that his theory of a 7pm time of death was, in fact, only a "rough estimate". He said: "At present, the only thing I can say with any certainty is that Christine and Amber died some time in the 14 hours between when they were last known to be alive, and when their bodies were discovered."

Hislop: "Your position now is markedly different."

Pang: "Not entirely."

Hislop: "Are you saying that your 14-hour window which you tell us today is consistent with your position in 2000, that they died one hour after the meal?"

Pang: "That's right. Yes."

Hislop: "When was it you changed your mind? When did you change your mind? Do you accept you changed your mind?"

Pang: "No. The one-hour estimate is within the 14-hour certainty."

He smiled, and appeared to wag his head from side to side.

After much more of the same, Justice Simon France stepped in, and asked Pang if he still accepted that Christine and Amber were killed an hour after their meal. Pang answered, "Now I would not give that as an estimate."

Hislop thanked the judge, and said to Pang, "You have accepted to His Honour that you changed your position. When was it you changed your mind? Do you understand the question?"

Pang licked his lips, and croaked, "I think so."

Hislop: "Well, could you answer it?"

Pang: " I gave an estimate, but the only certainty is in the 14-hour bracket."

Hislop: "Let's just try again. When was it you changed your mind?"

And then Pang said, "I would think it was after reading the Privy Council judgment."

It was 3pm. He had taken two hours to answer the question. Dr Pang will be remembered.