Time of Death - Lundy Truth

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Time of Death

Case Facts

Let the people know the truth and the country is safe.
( Abraham Lincoln )

At 5:43 pm on August 29th 2000, Christine and Amber went to the McDonald's restaurant drive thru' in Rangitikei Street, Palmerston North, for burgers, chips and some chicken nuggets. This was a fairly regular routine on Tuesday, as it was Amber's Pippins night and there wasn't time to cook a meal.

This meal was to have critical importance, as it was the only means by which pathologist Dr. James Shing Hung Pang was to determine the time of death.

Dr Pang estimated the mother and daughter were killed within one hour of eating the meal.
He stated that the absence of gastric juices helped identify the time of death. Food in the stomach stimulated secretion of gastric juices, which would mix with food to start the digestive process, within about half an hour of eating.

Dr Pang said there were a number of factors that could alter the timing of the stomach emptying and the digestive process. Stress was one of those factors. But, he said, the wounds sustained by the victims were such that death followed quickly, so any psychological, emotional and physical stress would only be for a few minutes.

Dr Pang said other methods used to determine the time of death included body temperature. But he said that was usually acceptable only six to 12 hours after death. Beyond that it was "reasonably useless."

Our questions are:

When was the meal actually eaten? It is assumed that it was eaten soon after purchase, but was this delayed for some reason? The time of death is based on the time that the meal was consumed, which is not known!

Dr. Pang delayed his determination of time of death in order that other forensic evidence could be gathered first. Did this delay preclude the measurement of rigor mortis, algor mortis, livor mortis and potassium levels in the eye etc.?

How accurate is the determination of time of death by stomach contents?
This method has been reported as unreliable and could be inaccurate by several hours, as admitted by Dr. Pang under cross examination at the depositions hearing.

Relevance of time of death

The time of death estimate of 7 pm on 29/8/2000 is the midpoint of the 3 hour period between Mark's cellphone calls in Petone and gave rise to the Police theory that he drove to Palmerston North to commit the murders, then back again to Petone.

If the time of death is incorrect, then this theory is also incorrect.

Friends and relatives of the Lundy family ( including Christine's mother ) find it difficult to believe that Christine and Amber were in bed at 7 pm. Christine habitually worked until late at night, and had a telephone call at 6:55 pm that night. In addition, Christine always watched the TV programme "Shortland Street" which ran from 7 pm until 7:30 pm on the night of the murders. Friends say that there is no way she would have been in bed when Shortland Street was on, and that Amber would not have been in bed at that time either.

Noises were heard by the neighbours later that night, including a "smashing sound" after 11 pm, which is after the computer shutdown time of 10:52 pm on the
Lundy desktop computer.
We welcome any comments or suggestions from qualified pathologists that are experienced in time of death determinations. Particularly relating to the use of stomach contents.
More Information...

We also welcome any information from Kelvin Grove residents that may have been in the Karamea Crescent area on 29 August 2000, whether or not they have contacted the Police. All information will be treated in confidence.

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