Neuropathologist Victoria Fabian
Neuropathologist Victoria Fabian

The neuropathologist who examined Corryn Rayney’s brain and neck injuries has told Lloyd Rayney’s murder trial she lost confidence in the police after catching them “rifling” through her case notes.

Victoria Fabian, testifying for a second day, said she was “livid” to find a forensic police officer going through her notes at a meeting with Major Crime detectives in May 2008.

Dr Fabian, who earlier gave evidence that neither Mrs Rayney’s head injury nor spinal injury would have been life threatening, said she had been out of the room for a toilet break.

“When I came back in (the officer) had all my files open and was rifling through them,” she said. “I was offended on a number of fronts. I felt the implication was that I had been dishonest.”

Dr Fabian, who subsequently declined to hand over her notes without a subpoena, said the incident was one of the factors that caused her to lose confidence in the police.

The integrity of the police investigation into Mrs Rayney’s death has been a recurring theme in Mr Rayney’s trial, with the defence questioning the way some evidence was handled and alleging they focused on Mr Rayney to the exclusion of other potential suspects.

Earlier Dr Fabian gave evidence that a neck injury suffered by Mrs Rayney was of the kind normally seen in car accident victims. She said it was possible Mrs Rayney had undergone a "neck restraint-type situation", such as being put in a headlock or choker-hold.

Dr Fabian testified she saw “similar injuries” in Mrs Rayney’s case and a number of other cases, including one person who had been held in a headlock, another who was strangled and one held in a choker-hold.

She said that in each case there was evidence of recent bleeding into the intervertebral discs and prolapses of the disc.

Under cross-examination she also agreed that neither the head injury nor the spinal injury observed would have been life-threatening.

The prosecution case is that Mrs Rayney was killed at her Como home by her husband, who has denied any involvement in his wife's death.

The prosecution has also alleged Mr Rayney buried his wife head down to speed up the decomposition process and make it harder to determine a cause of death.

Dr Fabian said she had never examined a spine from a victim who was decomposing and suspended upside down in her grave. She said her department examined between six and 20 spines a year.

The court heard yesterday from another pathology expert that Mrs Rayney's injuries were consistent with neck compression and having suffered a traumatic injury while alive that caused damage to her spine.

The court was also told it was a possibility the neck injury was incurred while her body was being placed unconscious and head-first into her bush grave.

Another cause of death that could not be ruled out was a potentially fatal heart condition Mrs Rayney had.

Pollen and spore expert Dallas Mildenhall, who authored a report into pollen found in Mrs Rayney’s nasal passages, also appeared as a witness. Dr Mildenhall gave evidence that pollen and mineral material found in Mrs Rayney’s nasal passages came from her Kings Park burial side and may have been the result of contamination when her grave was filled in.

He said it was “possible” that a person standing in the driveway of the Rayneys’ Como home, where there is a liquidambar tree, may have breathed in pollen from that tree. Under cross-examination he said that if a person was dragged across the ground, breathing deeply and close to pollen from the tree they would “certainly breathe something in”.

The West Australian

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