The West

Family friend didn t notice Rayney tension
Bradley and Leonie Pitcher leave court after giving evidence. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

A family friend of the Rayneys who watched a football game with them two days before Corryn Rayney was killed said she did not notice marital tension between the couple and was unaware they had separated.

The court also saw Mr Rayney’s defence lawyers step up their attack on the integrity of forensic evidence collected by police, signalling they would question whether a third liquidambar seed pod was found in Mrs Rayney’s body bag as police claim.

Leonie Pitcher told Lloyd Rayney’s Supreme Court murder trial that the only unhappiness she observed between Mr and Mrs Rayney when they watched a game at her home on August 5, 2007 was related to the football.

“It was a bad game of football – Corryn and I were quite wound up about the football,” Mrs Pitcher said, adding that it was a derby.

Asked if she had observed any "unhappiness" between the couple unrelated to the football Mrs Pitcher said no.

According to what the court heard yesterday August 5 was the same day on which Mr Rayney met Timothy Pearson, the man he allegedly paid to tap his wife's phone, for the last time and asked him how to remove the phone tap.

The prosecution alleges Mr Rayney's decision to remove the phone tap - and his advice to Mr Pearson that he tell anyone who asked he was fixing Mr Rayney's computer - suggests he planned his wife's murder.

Mrs Rayney was killed two days later on August 7, 2007 and Mr Rayney has pleaded not guilty to her wilful murder.

Mrs Pitcher also gave evidence about attending a fancy dress 40th birthday party on May 12, 2007 where Mr and Mrs Rayney dressed as members of the band ABBA and about a dinner in July. Asked if the interaction between Mr and Mrs Rayney was "friendly" she said: "Yes it was."

Mrs Pitcher’s husband Bradley also gave evidence about a dinner at the Rayneys’ home on July 22, 2007 at which he said he did not observe any harsh words, arguments or aggressive behaviour between the couple.

“To me it would have been so out of character that I would remember,” Mr Pitcher said.

Asked about Mr Rayney’s personality Mr Pitcher said he was “generally a pleasant person to converse with”.

“He wasn’t someone who you would expect to be vulgar or abusive,” he said.

Mr and Mrs Pitcher gave evidence that their youngest daughter was close friends with the Rayneys' youngest daughter, Sarah, and would regularly stay over at the Rayneys' home both before and after Mrs Rayney was killed.

Mr Pitcher said both Mr and Mrs Rayney appeared to be "devoted" parents.

Having walked Mrs Rayney to her car after the August 5 football game Mr Pitcher was asked about the interior of her car, which he said was clean.

“It would have been clean,” he said. “The car was obviously in my opinion professionally cleaned on a regular basis.”

The state of Mrs Rayney's car may be relevant because Mr Rayney’s lawyers have suggested certain items recovered from Mrs Rayney’s body may have been picked up from the inside of her car, which was used to transport her body to her Kings Park grave.

Senior Constable Michael Lamb also appeared in court as a witness today to give evidence about the handling of police forensic exhibits.

Snr Const Lamb was one of a handful of police officers and experts who handled the liquidambar seed pod found in Mrs Rayney’s body bag, the integrity of which has been questioned by Mr Rayney’s defence team.

Snr Const Lamb gave evidence that when he saw the pods they were sealed with tape in a paper bag. He said it was practice at the time to ensure all exhibits were sealed, including when they were taken to external agencies for examination.

Snr Const Lamb also gave evidence about handling Mrs Rayney’s body bag on December 3, 2007.

Asked by Justice Brian Martin how much he remembered from the day - as opposed to what he assumed had happened based on standard practice and having examined photos - Snr Const Lamb said "very little".

"I honestly don’t remember sifting through... that body bag," he said.

He said he had no independent recollection of the items he recovered from the body bag, which were sealed in yellow-top jars. Liquidambar seed pods, skin and sand were recovered from the bag.

Under cross-examination Snr Const Lamb was asked about the lack of photographs of some pieces of evidence in-situ, such as a glass fragment, a liquidambar seed pod and hair found in the body bag.

Mr Rayney’s lawyer David Edwardson also quizzed Snr Const Lamb to account for a three-hour period during the examination of the body bag where nothing was entered into the exhibit log.

Snr Const Lamb said he could not recall what had happened during that period but "good practice" suggested he and another police offer would have continued the search.

Mr Edwardson suggested the lack of photographs and lack of log entries "does not sit comfortably with the good practice you’ve told us about".

"It’s not normal, no," Snr Const Lamb said.

Having asked Snr Const Lamb to wait outside the courtroom Justice Brian Martin asked Mr Edwardson if he was being asked to doubt whether the pod was recovered from the body bag.

Mr Edwardson said yes.

In that case, Justice Martin, said the defence would “have to put (to police witnesses) that the log was falsified”.

“What else is there other than a suggestion that they have falsified these records,” Justice Martin said.

Mr Edwardson subsequently recalled Snr Const Lamb and asked whether he could have signed off on the exhibits log without actually knowing what was in it.

Snr Const Lamb said he could not recall.

The liquidambar seed pods are a key plank of the prosecution’s case because they claim they soil and brick dust found in the pods that can be matched to the Rayneys’ Como home proves Mrs Rayney was killed at home.

The trial is adjourned to Tuesday 10am.

The West Australian

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