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Top pathologist on death, diagnosis – and why Mark Lundy is guilty

Anna Leask,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Jul 2024, 7:33am
Leading pathologist Cynric Temple-Camp talks about his career on Herald podcast A Moment In Crime. Photo / 123RF
Leading pathologist Cynric Temple-Camp talks about his career on Herald podcast A Moment In Crime. Photo / 123RF

Top pathologist on death, diagnosis – and why Mark Lundy is guilty

Anna Leask,
Publish Date
Thu, 11 Jul 2024, 7:33am

Cynric Temple-Camp was not long out of high school when he saw his first dead body. 

Three dead bodies actually. In a terrible state. The victims of a plane crash. 

While many would be traumatised by such an experience it shaped Temple-Camp’s future, inspiring him to embark on a career in forensic pathology. 

Now he is one of New Zealand’s most experienced pathologists, often called upon over the years to help with criminal investigations. 

But it’s not all murder and mayhem. Temple-Camp is also tasked with solving mysterious deaths and diagnosing diseases. 

And, in his latest book The Final Diagnosis, he reveals some of the strangest cases he’s worked on – as well as giving his opinion on some of New Zealand’s most polarising cases. 

In this episode of Herald podcast A Moment In Crime, Temple-Camp speaks to host Anna Leask about his career, his new book and whether “the perfect murder” exists. 

The Final Diagnosis: Obscure cases of death, disease & murder by New Zealand pathologist and author Cynric Temple-Camp is a recommended read for true crime fans.The Final Diagnosis: Obscure cases of death, disease & murder by New Zealand pathologist and author Cynric Temple-Camp is a recommended read for true crime fans. 

Episodes of A Moment In Crime – written and hosted by Leask – usually focus on old cases, cold cases or recent cases of national and international significance involving Kiwi offenders or victims.  

But this episode comes from the other side of the cordon – from a person often charged with determining how and why a person died and, who is responsible.  

He’s worked extensively on the case against Mark Lundy – twice convicted of murdering his wife and daughter in their Palmerston North home.  

He is sure Lundy is the only one who could have killed the pair, and explains the science driving that belief.  

And, you’ll find you what he thinks about another infamous New Zealand double murder – the polarising case of Scott Watson, convicted of killing Ben Smart and Olivia Hope during New Year celebrations in 1999. 

The birth of a pathologist 

Temple-Camp was born in Zimbabwe, emigrating to New Zealand in the late 1980s and getting a job with the local pathology service. 

As a young lad, he dreamed of a career in medicine – but initially, he didn’t envisage he would end up working with the dead, dying and diseased. 

But when he was 19, a horrific event changed the trajectory of life. 

“I just started in medical school, and I was an army cadet. During the vacations, I had to go back into the army,” he said. 

“What happened was, I was sent out with a squad to pick up three bodies from an aircraft accident, and we had to put them into a bag and take them off to the mortuary for an autopsy. 

“And that’s quite a shocking thing for a 19-year-old – I mean, the year before, I’d been a prefect at school, so that was a little bit of a shock. 

“But when I got to the mortuary, there was a pathologist there who was outstanding, and he turned what would have been a terrible experience into something really amazing… getting the bodies together again, working out what had happened, making and putting a whole context behind what we were seeing and what had happened. 

“And I just thought, this is just brilliant – and it stuck in my mind and throughout my medical career, I just wanted to be a pathologist.” 

Pathologists are specialist doctors who diagnose and study human diseases and conditions. 

Every day is different for Temple-Camp. 

One day he could be testing tissue and fluid samples to diagnose disease in a patient – the next he could be in a post mortem helping with a homicide investigation. 

Dr Cynric Temple-Camp. Photo / SuppliedDr Cynric Temple-Camp. Photo / Supplied 

Then there are the other cases he’s called upon to provide answers about – sudden deaths, mystery illnesses. 

Over the years, Temple-Camp has seen it all. And he’s pretty much written about it all. 

In 2018 he published his first book – The Cause of Death. The Quick and the Dead followed in 2020. 

And in June 2024 – The Final Diagnosis. 

“They’re really a trilogy because they’re all my memoirs of cases that I’ve been involved with,” he explained. 

“The first book was predominantly about autopsies and the dead… And this one, it’s a mixed bag of autopsies on people who have had unusual or suspicious deaths – some murders as well – and people who’ve had unusual diseases, or unusual presentation of diseases. 

“There are quite a few live people, live patients in my new book, in which I talk about their diseases, and that’s a little bit different.” 

Temple-Camp has thousands of cases he could choose from. So, how does he pinpoint which are featured in his books? 

“Every day that I go to work is amazing – there are always new cases,” he said. 

“There always unbelievable things to find – I guess this is cherry-picking all those that stick in my mind and are the most unusual. 

“And as I write them, it’s amazing how new ones come up. But of course, you can’t write about everything, and I can’t remember them all.” 

The Lundy murders: Why two juries got the right man 

Temple-Camp’s early career was varied. 

“When I started doing pathology here, we tended to do a bit of everything. I worked in Palmerston North Hospital, and we did our diagnostic biopsies, and we also did all the autopsies on all the homicides, the suspicious deaths, the traffic accidents, and the suicides. 

“And these days, that’s all changed. Now there’s more and more specialisation, and in the current training, the pathologists don’t even learn how to do autopsies anymore. That’s gone. 

“They do that after they finish their fellowship – after their 13 years of training from beginning to end, then they have to go and learn how to do autopsies.” 

Temple-Camp has worked on a huge number of homicide cases – but there is one that people are most fascinated with. Lundy. 

In February 2001 Mark Edward Lundy, then aged 43, was arrested and charged with murdering his wife Christine and their 7-year-old daughter Amber.   

The pair were hacked to death at their Palmerston North home, likely with an axe or tomahawk. 

On the night of their murders, Lundy had checked into a motel in Petone, Wellington. 

Mark Lundy with his wife Christine and daughter Amber. Photo / SuppliedMark Lundy with his wife Christine and daughter Amber. Photo / Supplied 

Police say that just after 5.30pm Lundy drove “at break-neck speed from his motel to Palmerston North, killed his family and arrived back in Petone before 8.28pm”. 

They contended that he killed Christine for her life insurance money because of financial pressure. 

Lundy killed Amber, police said, because she had witnessed all or part of her mother’s murder. 

At his initial murder trial, the prosecution relied heavily on a particular piece of forensic evidence – a speck of body tissue found on one of Lundy’s polo shirts, found in the back seat of his car. 

An international pathologist identified it as Christine’s brain tissue and it was argued the only way it could have ended up on Lundy’s shirt was if he himself was the murderer. 

Lundy gave evidence at the trial, strenuously denying he killed his wife and child. 

His lawyers were adamant that Lundy could not possibly have made the round trip from Wellington to Palmerston North and back in three hours. 

Further, they said contamination could account for the tissue found on Lundy’s shirt. 

The jury found Lundy guilty of both murders. 

In 2013 the Privy Council – then New Zealand’s court of last appeal –overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial. 

The retrial went ahead in 2015 and the second jury was also convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, by the Crown case and found Lundy guilty of both murders. 

“Of course, the one that everybody always asks about is the Mark Lundy case,” said Temple-Camp. 

“I didn’t actually do the autopsies… although I’ve been involved in all of Mark Lundy’s trials, including going to London and sitting in on the Privy Council for three days. 

“So that has been a pretty interesting one that spanned a good part of my career.” 

Mark Lundy supported after the funeral of his wife Christine and daughter Amber in 2000. Photo / Mark MitchellMark Lundy supported after the funeral of his wife Christine and daughter Amber in 2000. Photo / Mark Mitchell 

Temple-Camp doesn’t hesitate when asked what he thinks of the jury’s verdicts. 

“It certainly has been tried a lot, hasn’t it? I guess from a pathologist’s point of view – we try not to have a personal opinion that’s based on just what we’ve heard, or what we think. What I look at is – what does the science say? 

“And the science certainly has produced evidence that [Lundy] has been unable to overturn in court, and it really is quite compelling. 

“You know, it’s very difficult to argue why you have your wife’s brains on your shirt.” 

The Final Diagnosis: An extract 

Temple-Camp explains more about the Lundy case in The Final Diagnosis. 

Here is an extract from the book: 

Juries are smart. They have 700-plus years of collective life experience. We all live in a science-based society with remote controls, microwaves, computers and aeroplanes. 

We understand science, and while we may not know exactly how it works, we know it does. And it can be explained simply so we can follow it. It is not witchcraft, after all. 

Christine’s DNA was found in both flecks of tissue on Lundy’s shirt. It was reported that the odds were 1 billion billion times to one more likely that the DNA was from Christine Lundy than from someone else unrelated to her, chosen at random from the New Zealand population. 

This is a massive boost to the case against Lundy, and the statistical level of certainty shows how reliable DNA matching can be. 

The DNA belonged to Christine. The Oxford pathologists first brought up the idea of sausages and hamburgers as a source of animal brain tissue, and that story gained some traction, as I still get asked about it from time to time. 

But Mark Lundy would have to be the unluckiest man in history to have got an accidental contamination with animal brain tissue from a hamburger, and then for that tissue also to contain DNA indistinguishable from his wife’s. 

All I can say is the DNA on his shirt is human and was of good quality. The tissue was brain, as the international experts have established, and I can say it was uncooked through microscopic histological examination. 

I see cooked meat and other foods histologically in my daily work, so I am confident of that. 

So I can say with authority that the brain tissue on the Lundy shirt had emphatically never been cooked. 

It was science applied to the two deposits of brain tissue on Mark Lundy’s shirt that put paid to his plans of getting away with murder. 

Lundy realistically could never have predicted and therefore planned for this accidental minute but unequivocal soiling of his shirt. That was his most significant mistake. 

Two juries have convicted Mark Lundy of murdering his wife and daughter Amber, 7, with a tomohawk-like weapon. Photo / SuppliedTwo juries have convicted Mark Lundy of murdering his wife and daughter Amber, 7, with a tomohawk-like weapon. Photo / Supplied 

Autopsies: ‘You want to run away... but you get used to it’ 

Temple-Camp outlines a number of other cases in his book – explaining the circumstances of the patient and how he reached his conclusion about their death or affliction. 

He’s not fazed by anything he sees – body parts, gruesome injuries, decomposition. 

To him it’s all part of the puzzle he’s been asked to piece together. 

“Whenever you open up a body, a freshly dead body, or perhaps a not so freshly dead one, there’s a suppression or a suspension of your normal physiology and emotion,” he said. 

“By physiology, I mean your body function – what does it tell you to do when you see a body being opened? It tells you to run away, you get this adrenaline rush of fear and flight, and you want to run away, and you’ve got to suppress that. 

“And then there’s the emotional aspect. You’re looking at a body being opened and this is an appalling mutilation if you’re not used to it, and you’ve got to suppress that. 

“As time goes you get used to it. I suppose you get inoculated… pathologists do get used to this.” 

Part of a pathologist's job is conducting post-mortem examinations - also known as autopsies.  Photo / 123RFPart of a pathologist's job is conducting post-mortem examinations - also known as autopsies. Photo / 123RF 

Despite being able to override his emotions and reaction and get on with his job, some cases are harder than others. 

“I think young children are always poignant… I’ve had a number of cases where my registrars have just been unable to carry out the autopsy. 

“There were the three children who died in the Manawatū when they were swimming in the river, and part of the cliff came down. 

“The cliff killed all three of them. That was three children from two families, that was terrible. My registrars couldn’t do those autopsies – I had to go and do those. 

“Of course, that does affect you. Nobody deserves to die to start with, but when it’s a young child like that, and it’s just so pointless, it’s not a good feeling. 

“And those are the ones that I remember, of course.” 

For Temple-Camp – it doesn’t matter if his patient is living or dead, he does the same job for each and every one. 

“I don’t see these as cadavers… They are my patients, and I am a doctor, and I am looking after them, and I’m finding what happened, and I’m telling their story,” he explained. 

“I’m their last advocate, and I will tell the truth about them and what happened, and do it respectfully, and then they can be laid to rest with their story known and everything tidied away. 

“Understanding is important. Part of loss and grief is, of course, understanding”. 

The perfect murder – does it exist? 

People were always curious about Temple-Camp’s work, which involves hours if not days giving evidence at criminal trials. 

“Everybody wants to talk about murder,” he said. 

“Whenever I go to meetings, nobody ever says: ‘have you seen any amazing diseases recently? Have you seen any amazing tumours? What’s the most exotic disease you’ve come across?’ 

“Nobody ever asks that. They always ask about murder. Everybody wants to know. We’re fascinated by murder.” 

“At a lot of the meetings that I go to, people have always asked me ‘do you know how to commit the perfect murder?’ 

“And the answer is yes, I do – but I’m not going to tell you. 

Pathologist and author Cynric Temple-Camp. Photo / Supplied Pathologist and author Cynric Temple-Camp. Photo / Supplied 

“But what I can tell you is, look at a number of famous and not-so-famous murders in New Zealand and I can tell you what the murderers did wrong, and then from that, you can work out what you need to do for your perfect murder.” 

In The Final Diagnosis, Temple-Camp also speaks about circumstantial evidence – often controversial in murder cases. 

It doesn’t happen regularly but, there have been a number of high-profile cases where the prosecution has no eye-witnesses – but a narrative built around various strands of other evidence. 

The Bain murders. Scott Watson. David Benbow. 

“You hear this all the time: ‘he was found guilty, but the evidence was only circumstantial’,” Temple-Camp said. 

“Well, circumstantial evidence is very good. Eyewitness evidence is extremely bad, and that’s well-known…There have been many tests of it. 

“But circumstantial evidence involves clues that you cannot manufacture, that are left by mistake behind, and there’s nothing that you can do… added together, they form a very compelling argument. 

“It’s not ‘gotcha’ evidence – but all of these things start adding up, and when you get a whole pile of circumstantial facts coming together, it becomes very hard to say, ‘well, can there be another explanation?’ 

“And the answer is, usually – ‘not, really’. 

Cynric Temple-Camp has helped with many murder investigations.  Photo / FileCynric Temple-Camp has helped with many murder investigations. Photo / File 

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe it or not, and it never changes… with circumstantial evidence, one of the analogies is that each piece of is like a thread in a rope by itself – it’s not hugely strong. 

“But you plait them all together, you get something that’s actually quite strong and very difficult to break.” 

Temple-Camp’s The Final Diagnosis, published by Harper Collins, is available at all the usual book retailers and as an e-book. And you can hear more from the pathologist on the latest episode of A Moment In Crime, linked below. 

“There’s a saying that writing is the art of turning blood into ink,” said Temple-Camp. 

“I think in my case, it probably literally is a case of turning blood into ink. 

“People often ask, ‘why do you write? How do you write?’ I just tell the story of what I saw and what I thought and what became of my patients.” 

A Moment In Crime is written and hosted by senior crime and justice journalist Anna Leask. It is produced by Leask, podcast production manager Ethan Sills and for this episode, Leanne McDonald from NZME sound and vision. 

Herald podcast A Moment In Crime has more than 55 episodes - which are usually released monthly. Herald podcast A Moment In Crime has more than 55 episodes - which are usually released monthly. 


A Moment in Crime is available on iHeartRadioApple PodcastsSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes are released monthly. 

The series is hosted by Anna Leask, a Christchurch-based reporter who covers national crime and justice. She joined the Herald in 2008 and has worked as a journalist for 18 years. If you have a crime or case you would like to hear more about email [email protected]. 

Since 2019, A Moment in Crime has produced over 55 episodes, and has been downloaded over 1 million times, with listeners in over 170 countries. It was nominated for Best True Crime Podcast at the 2024 Radio and Podcast Awards. 

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