The West

Murder trial told of damge to Rayney car
Corryn Rayney's dumped car in Kershaw Street, Subiaco, with a trail of oil behind.

Lloyd Rayney said he and his two daughters were “frightened” about security after Corryn’s disappearance and he feared a dinner place card with his name on it was "placed" near her grave site, his personal assistant told his Perth murder trial today.

However, in a separate conversation she said Mr Rayney told her he had placed the card in "the car" after dinner.

Shari Paradise, who was personal assistant to three barristers, including Mr Rayney, at the time of Mrs Rayney’s disappearance described the morning after he allegedly killed his wife.

On the morning of August 8, 2007 she said Mr Rayney “flew in the door and was peeved because Corryn had gone to work early and not told him she was doing so, which meant he had to get the girls ready for school and was running late for court”.

Later, she said she received a call from the Supreme Court alerting her Mrs Rayney had not arrived for work that day.

She tried to get in contact with Mr Rayney but was unable to do so because he was in court.

On a later date, likely a couple of days after Mrs Rayney's disappearance, she said she spoke to Mr Rayney about security.

“He and the girls were frightened and that he wanted me to look into some kind of security for the house,” she said.

Ms Paradise later recalled a conversation with Mr Rayney in which he suggested the dinner place card found near his wife’s grave may have been “planted”.

The card forms a key part of the prosecution’s case as they allege it ties Mr Rayney to the site where his wife was buried.

Ms Paradise recalled the game of celebrity heads played at a work function a little over a week before Mrs Rayney was killed.

However, she said she believed it likely Mr Rayney himself had used the card in the game.

Another witness who attended the dinner told the court yesterday it was she who had been assigned the card, which had Mr Rayney’s name on one side and "The Queen" on the other.

Ms Paradise told the court Mr Rayney told her that if he had killed his wife he would not have parked it in Kershaw Street in Subiaco, which is where Mrs Rayney’s car was found and where the couple knew several other Perth barristers.

"I remember him saying it was found in a street where he knew some people and that if he had he certainly wouldn’t have parked the car in a place where you risk being seen by people you know," she said.

She could not remember when the conversation took place.

Ms Paradise said Mr Rayney told her he had put the card "in the console of the car" but could not remember which car he was referring to.

She also described her relationship with Mr Rayney as "a good one" and said she had discussions with him about the state of his marriage because she was having trouble in her own relationship.

She said she asked if Mr Rayney would try for full custody of his two daughters if the couple divorced.

"He said, ’No, I would never take the girls away from their mother, they need their mother," she said.

Ms Paradise said she had to deny to police at one point that she and Mr Rayney had had an affair.

She added that the policemen present "were just really smug and a few of them grinned" while watching a TV news report in which Mr Rayney was named as the "prime and only suspect".

She said the allegation "basically killed his career".

Ms Paradise told the court she and Mr Rayney had discussed theories about how his wife might have been murdered. But she denied suggestion that Mr Rayney’s comment about having put the place card in the car was the product of her imagination and speculation.

Earlier today, an expert involved in the forensic examination of the seed pods found on Mrs Rayney's body was called to give evidence in the trial.

Principal research scientist of WA Herbarium Nicholas Landers was called this afternoon to testify on the liquidambar pods.

The director of science at Kings Park, Dr Kingsley Dixon, was also called to answer questions about the existence of liquidambar trees.

Pods from a liquidambar tree were found in Mrs Rayney’s hair.

The prosecution’s case suggests those pods came from the liquidamabar tree outside the Rayney’s Como home.

Dr Dixon said there was only one liquidambar tree in Kings Park. The tree, which was visited by the court last week, is some distance from Mrs Rayney’s grave site.

However, Dr Dixon said it was likely liquidambar trees were planted in the suburbs around Kings Park because of the age of the suburbs. He said the liquidambar trees had been planted in WA for the past 150 years but their popularity had waned from the 1960s.

He said the liquidambar was the only tree in WA that produced its specific prickly fruit pod. The liquidambar is not an Australian native but comes from North America and grown for its autumnal colours.

The question of whether the pods found in Mrs Rayney's hair came from the tree in her frontyard is crucial to the prosecution's case, which assumes Mrs Rayney came home that night.

Asked whether it was likely the pods could have been dispersed by birds Dr Dixon suggested it was unlikely that the whole capsule - the prickly pod that contains the tree's seed - would be transported by a bird. He said the pods were also not prone to being moved much distance by the wind.

Questioned about whether a crow or a magpie might have been able to transport the prickly pod Dr Dixon said the birds were meat and carrion eaters. Asked if there were any big "vegetarian" birds that might have transported the pods he said: "Emus went a long time ago".

A senior constable with the WA Police investigation unit gave evidence relating to damage done to Mrs Rayney’s car and a piece of the car found near her grave site in Kings Park.

The prosecution-led evidence, intended to further tie Mrs Rayney's car to the place where she was buried, was made during the testimony of senior constable Steven Wells.

Snr Const Wells gave evidence about the damage to the underside of Mrs Rayney's car, which was found abandoned in a Subiaco street.

The court also heard from Francis Burt Chambers chief executive Pauline McKay, who was instrumental in organising the chambers dinner Mr Rayney attended a little over a week before his wife's death.

The dinner is relevant because Mr Rayney's dinner place card was allegedly found near his wife's grave.

Ms McKay provided the police with evidence that Mr Rayney did attend the dinner and information about the place cards used.

Ms McKay told the court Mr Rayney did not ask her what information she was providing to the police although he was aware the investigation was being conducted.

The West Australian

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