The friend who supported Mark Lundy at the funeral tells ELIZABETH BINNING he is certain of Lundy's innocence. Others who knew him are not so sure.



When Mark Lundy collapsed in supposed grief at the funeral of his wife and child, Aram Joukadjian was there to support him.



There he is in the photograph that appeared on every newspaper front page, to the left of Lundy, whose legs are dragging, his mouth open.



Mr Joukadjian still believes his friend was not acting.

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Despite Wednesday's guilty verdict, he insists his friend of 23 years is innocent and that the collapse, the hysteria, were real.



"If he was acting, then he would bloody win an Academy Award. We couldn't hold him. I had to get physio when I got back to Australia because he put my back out."



Mr Joukadjian is part of Lundy's wide circle of friends, which has split into those who are reconciled to the idea that he killed his wife, Christine, and 7-year-old Amber and those who believe he could never have done it.



But the guilty verdict has not changed the opinion of Mr Joukadjian, who met Lundy through Scouts at a National Rovers Scouting Moot in Australia 23 years ago, and calls him a "gentle, caring family man".



He remembers the shock of hearing about the deaths in August 2000. There was an answerphone message at his home in Melbourne from Lundy saying: "Phone me, something awful has happened."



That night he and Lundy cried together on the phone.



"He was very, very upset, very distraught."



Mr Joukadjian caught the first available flight and arrived in Palmerston North the day before the funeral.



That night he stayed with Lundy, who told him Christine and Amber were "so badly hurt that I wasn't allowed to see them".



Lundy had been given a lock of Amber's hair to keep.



He asked Mr Joukadjian to support him at the funeral, and his friend said yes.



An Australian of Armenian and Egyptian descent, Mr Joukadjian remembers his sense of betrayal when his friend was arrested in February last year.



But as the days went by, he decided Lundy could not be the killer.



He had never heard him say a bad word about Christine, and remembered his jubilation when she was pregnant with Amber.



He admits that he never asked Lundy if he did kill Christine and Amber.



But he insists: "I still feel the same about him. I support him."



He remembers now how some of Lundy's friends remarked that he had been a "bit funny" after the funeral.



"He did have a smile on his face. But that was just him trying to make people not feel as bad as they did."



On the other side of Lundy at the funeral that day was Alistair Howard. They also met through Scouts.



He told the Weekend Herald he did not want to discuss his feelings about Lundy. He said he would go to his lawyers if anything was written about him.



Nigel Latta, a clinical psychologist who assesses prisoners' behaviour for the prisons and courts, said Lundy's friends might find it hard to believe he was acting at the funeral and kept up a lie for months during the police investigation.



"We are not equipped to think that someone we know, like or love could do something like this."



But he is certain Lundy's public displays of grief were an act.



At the funeral, Lundy's "collapse" meant he lost control of his legs, but he still had control of his arms.



"He had limb-specific grief. It wasn't consistent, it appeared somewhat over the top."



Lundy did have minor acting experience. He was part of the Guides and Scouts stage production The Gang Show for 20 years.



He met Christine in 1978 during a show and they married five years later.



Pat Snoxell, Manawatu Gang Show director for 30 years, described Lundy as a "talented young man" but not outstanding.



He said Lundy started acting in the shows when he was 11.