The forensic pathologist who examined Corryn Rayney’s body has cast doubt on a key piece of evidence in the case against Lloyd Rayney, saying it was difficult to accept he did not find liquidambar seed pods in her hair during a preliminary examination.
Forensic pathologist Gerard Cadden examined Mrs Rayney’s body on August 16, 2007 – the day it was exhumed from its King’s Park grave – but did not find the seed pods until the following day when he conducted a post-mortem examination.
Dr Cadden gave evidence today that footage of the initial examination previously provided to him by police did not show him examining Mrs Rayney’s hair. Images subsequently shown to him by the defence proved he did examine the hair on that day.
The prosecution claims the presence of three pods on Mrs Rayney’s body – two in the hair, the third likely dislodged from her hair - ties her death to the Rayneys’ Como home, where there is a liquidambar tree.
The defence has challenged how the pods were recovered and questioned the lack of photos showing them in-situ.
Under cross-examination Dr Cadden testified he found it "difficult to accept" he had missed the pods on his first examination.
He also agreed that in 22 years of experience he had never experienced the level of unease with police as he did in the Rayney case, saying he was "highly on guard" and felt he had been "shut out" of the investigation.
Dr Cadden gave evidence he felt concerned when he arrived at the state mortuary to conduct the post-mortem on August 17 to find a police officer already there.
He said he was concerned to see the officer talking to a member of staff who was also a lawyer because he feared police claims that they “knew” Mr Rayney had killed his wife would be spread around.
Earlier Dr Cadden told the trial police suggested to him Mr Rayney may have killed his wife with the help of a “male lover”.
“To the best of my recollection (the officer) said it was Lloyd Rayney … they knew that Lloyd had killed his wife, either by himself or with the help of a male lover,” he said.
“I couldn’t tell if he was serious about the male lover, it was obvious he was uncomfortable… telling me.”
That conversation took place on the day Mrs Rayney’s body was exhumed - about three years before Mr Rayney was charged with her murder.
The question of Mrs Rayney’s cause of death was again under the spotlight, with uncertainty over whether she showed signs of brain swelling and the significance of a narrowed coronary artery.
The court has previously been told neuropathologist Victoria Fabian saw no signs of brain swelling when she examined Mrs Rayney’s spine and brain.
Two other experts - forensic consultant John Hilton and Professor Blumberg – said they believed there had been swelling.
Dr Cadden said in determining Mrs Rayney’s cause of death he effectively discounted the views expressed by Professors Hilton and Blumberg in favour of Dr Fabian, with whom he had worked for 20 years.
Prof Blumberg appeared as a witness today, saying it was not unusual for pathologists to disagree.
Dr Cadden did not include Mrs Rayney’s narrowed coronary artery as a possible cause of death in his report, but conceded it could not be ruled out.
He said it "could be an incidental finding" or could have been significant, noting that coronary artery disease of the severity found in Mrs Rayney was "very common" in the wider community.