Update: Police said they “knew it was Lloyd Rayney” who had killed his wife within hours of her body being exhumed from its Kings Park grave, a forensic pathologist told the Perth barrister’s wilful murder trial today.
Gerard Cadden - the forensic pathologist who recovered the contentious liquidambar seed pods from Corryn Rayney’s hair - told Mr Rayney’s Supreme Court trial he believed Mr Rayney’s arrest was “imminent” after being told police “knew” that Mr Rayney, either acting alone or with another person, had killed his wife.
The revelation came after another expert gave evidence Corryn Rayney’s neck injuries were consistent with so-called "rabbit punches" - life threatening strikes that are banned in competitive sports but taught in street fighting.
Associate Professor John Hilton gave evidence in Lloyd Rayney’s wilful murder trial yesterday, but his expert report as a forensic consultant was made available to the media today.
In the report he says that Mrs Rayney’s injuries, which included bleeding into the disks between vertebrae of the neck, “could arise from direct compressive forces, or blows, but more likely from a combination of these phenomena with perhaps direct blows towards the back of the neck of the nature of ‘rabbit punches’”.
“The phenomena of the rabbit punches is recognised as being dangerous to life and it is banned from conventional, competitive boxing because of this,” he said in the report dated 2010.
“However, it was taught in armed combat and is still used in forms of competitive (but probably illegal) street fighting,” his report said.
Professor Hilton also described brain swelling in Mrs Rayney, which he said was a response to a wide range of “brain insults” including hypoxia or a lack of oxygen to the brain from neck or chest compression.
He said there was no evidence of drugs or poisons detected.
Professor Hilton said a ligature would have been expected to leave an impression but that a “broader, perhaps softer or unpatterned” ligature “may well leave no localised signs of compression”.
Yesterday, Professor Hilton said he could not exclude the possibility Mrs Rayney received her neck injuries as she was placed head-first into her bush grave at Kings Park, meaning she must have been alive because the injuries were pre-death.
In his report, the professor noted it appeared Mrs Rayney had not inhaled significant quantities of sand, meaning she was either not breathing when placed in the grave “or, less likely, the weight of the sand as the grave was filled in prevented respiration”.
Dr Cadden said as a result of the conversation he had with police – which took place during a tea break at the State mortuary on the night of August 16, 2007, the day Mrs Rayney’s body was recovered – he gave Mrs Rayney’s likely cause of death the following day as being consistent with some form of “neck compression”.
Had he not been under the impression an arrest was coming, Dr Cadden said, he may have given the cause of death as “undetermined, pending ongoing investigation”.
“I was trying to give them some indication of where the case was going," he said.
Dr Cadden’s evidence about the conversation with police is likely to be seized on by Mr Rayney’s defence team, which has long argued that police conducted a biased investigation targeting Mr Rayney to the exclusion of other potential suspects. He also testified about recovering the liquidambar seed pods from Mrs Rayney’s hair.