The liquidambar seed pods recovered from Corryn Rayney’s body returned to the spotlight today at Lloyd Rayney’s trial as two police officers took to the witness stand to give evidence.
The subject was raised during the cross-examination of Acting Senior Sergeant Peter Broekmeulen, who was asked if he was aware of concerns raised by Mr Rayney’s defence about the continuity and integrity of the pods.
Acting Snr Sgt Broekmeulen said he had become aware of the concerns raised because of media coverage of the Supreme Court murder trial.
“Generally speaking I don’t recall times when I’ve heard it … but I have heard it,” he said.
Asked if he had ever been approached by a fellow police officer to discuss the subject he denied it. “Never, not to this day,” he said.
The prosecution claims the pods were caught in Mrs Rayney’s hair as her body was dragged outside the Rayneys’ Como home, where there is a liquidambar tree. They say the presence of the pods - and soil and brick particles found attached to the pods that is similar to samples found at the Rayneys' home - supports their claim Mrs Rayney was killed at home.
The defence has challenged how the pods were found and questioned why no photos were taken of them in Mrs Rayney’s hair.
Another officer, Sergeant Natasha Rogers, told the court about a police briefing she attended on August 17, 2007 at which the seed pods were discussed.
Sgt Rogers said a fellow officer told her the pods had been found in Mrs Rayney’s hair and described them as “like a golf ball with spikes”.
“I said something along the lines of don’t quotes me but … they sound like liquidambar,” she said.
“It’s probably quite silly but … I can remember playing with them in my childhood and calling them something quite different. We referred to them as conkers.”
Under cross-examination, Sgt Rogers said she had not mentioned in her statement or recorded in any notes the discussion about the seed pods she had with colleagues during the briefing on August 17.
The court has been told two pods were found in Mrs Rayney's hair.
The trial has previously been told that police found a third liquidambar seed pod in the body bag during the December inspection - four months after the post mortem when two pods were pulled from Mrs Rayney’s hair.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer David Edwardson, Sgt Rogers said it was only after the pile of sand was tipped out of the body bag that the seed pod was found. She could not explain why a photograph had not been taken of the pod amid the sand.
Sgt Rogers said according to the exhibits log, it took her and another officer three hours and 20 minutes to find and collect the third seed pod after sifting through the sand by hand without assistance from any tools.
She later clarified that there could have been some time between locating the item and collecting it and she may have seen certain exhibits without picking them up straight away.
Skin, hair and a piece of metal were also found in the sand, she said.
Sgt Rogers said she observed the items and formed opinions on what they were, but did not examine them in any detail.
Liquidambar trees are common in older suburbs around Perth but there is only one liquidambar tree in Kings Park and that is some distance from Mrs Rayney's grave.