A friend and business associate of Mark Lundy visited and threatened by angry creditors just hours before the infamous double-murder will keep his name secret, a judge has ruled.
The associate was so concerned by the two creditors’ presence at his rural North Island home on August 29, 2000 that police were called.
The men urgently wanted a $16,000 deposit for supplying $70,000 of grapevine root cuttings, which were planned to be treated and on-sold for $550,000 to Lundy for his Hawkes Bay vineyard venture.
The mystery man later admitted under oath that he felt “intimidated” by one of the men who was “considerably taller and heavier than myself”.
They “got a bit snaky” and tried to take root stock out of a chiller unit, he claimed.
Official police records show they were called at 10.43am on August 29 “to attend grape cuttings being stolen”.
Two local police constables visited the property.
But they were satisfied it was a civil, commercial matter which did not require police involvement. They didn’t take any personal details.
A job sheet entry by one of the police constables, seen by the Herald, says: “Both parties seemed amicable and there was no suggestion of any violence being threatened or used. It appeared to me that the owner/manager just wanted some advice on what the seller could or could not do.”
The creditors reportedly got a $16,000 cheque and left.
Hours later, Lundy’s wife Christine, 38, and 7-year-old daughter Amber were butchered with an axe or tomahawk inside their Karamea Crescent, Palmerston North home.
The stunning revelations come 20 years after the murders.
The business associate – who died five years ago – was granted name suppression at Lundy’s original 2002 double-murder trial.
The Herald this year applied to the High Court in Palmerston North to have the name suppression lifted, arguing that the original reasons for the judge to grant the decision were no longer relevant.
The application was opposed by the man’s surviving family. Palmerston North Crown Solicitor, Ben Vanderkolk took a neutral position on the Herald’s application. Lundy’s lawyer supported the application.
Last month, the matter was heard by Justice Rebecca Edwards.
After a hearing at the High Court in Wellington, she reserved her decision, which was released today.
Justice Edwards declined the Herald’s application, concluding: “The public interest in publication of [the man’s] name and in the evidence does not outweigh the private and public interests in maintaining the orders in these circumstances.”
Long-time Lundy supporter, Auckland businessman Geoff Levick says police failed to properly investigate the fact that creditors showed up at a close business associate of Lundy’s on the day of the murders.
Levick says it was a remarkable “coincidence” that was shockingly overlooked by police.
On the afternoon the creditors showed up, the man phoned Christine who oversaw the paperwork side of Lundy’s business affairs “to put her in the picture” about what had just happened.
And later that night, he also phoned Lundy – who said he was away in Wellington on business – and they spoke for 27 minutes.
“The subjects we discussed would have been the events that took place on our property that particular day…” the man said during the 2002 trial.
Asked if the conversation related to a scheme to cover up the murders, he replied: “No, definitely not.”
Christine and Amber Lundy were murdered that night.
The two creditors were later questioned by police probing the double murder, the Herald understands, but the line of inquiry wasn’t pursued any further.
The business associate was, however, formally interviewed several times by homicide police investigating the Lundy murders.
He was also treated as a suspect in the killings.
During one police video interview, the man noticed his name written on a document headed, ‘Suspect in Murder’ and “wondered what was going on”.
He told Lundy’s original trial that on November 26, 2000 he was visited at home by two senior police officers, including Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Grantham, the man in charge of Operation Winter as the Lundy case was dubbed.
They were “quite irate, maybe nor irate, but very disturbed”, he said, that he hadn’t returned to the police station for another video interview.
“And they accused me at that stage of telling nothing but lies to the police, at which I got a little agitated and I asked them not too politely to leave,” he told the court.
The man claimed that he was offered a deal by police for his cooperation in the case.
“Mr Grantham offered me immunity from prosecution,” he said.
“He was only going to offer it to me once because he believed I was involved in some way, shape, or form, with the killings of Christine and Amber.
“I told him that I didn’t want immunity from prosecution, because I was in no way, shape, or form, or time, or place, or anything involved with their murders.”
During the 2002 trial, it was suggested that someone cleaned up the bloody scene after the slayings and switched off the Lundy’s computer.
The man claimed that police accused him of the clean-up job.
He also gave a statement for Lundy’s retrial at the High Court in Wellington in 2015 – ordered by the Privy Council in London who had concerns over Lundy’s first trial where he was found guilty and jailed for life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years – later uplifted to a minimum of 20 years.
He again alleged that Grantham had offered him “immunity from prosecution” even though he was accused of “cleaning up the scene and switching the computer off after the murders”.
Lundy – now aged 63 – has always professed his innocence and becomes eligible for parole in 2022.
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