Dr Philip Patrick Lynch was involved in some of the most famous and notorious murder trials in New Zealand.
Luckily for him, he was Wellington’s first full-time pathologist rather than on trial.
Lynch went on to write a true crime book about the cases he had been involved with - No Remedy for Death.
Its fascinating contents include the story of Wellington’s Mt Vic tunnel ghost - Phyllis Symons, a poisoning by cake and the last man to be hanged in New Zealand.
His father, Thomas William Hall Lynch, was born in Milton, Otago, son of an Irish immigrant, and his mother, Katherine Walsh, in Dunedin.
Lynch was born in 1894 in Oamaru and caught polio when he was a year old, leading to a permanent partial paralysis of both legs.
It did nothing to hold him back, and after his family transferred to Timaru following his father’s job - a railway worker, Lynch went to school before setting out for Wellington to take up a cadetship with the Public Works Department. He had planned to become an architect but, as he said himself in his book, he wanted to do more, so went on to study at Victoria University. He graduated with a degree in science, which led him to medicine.
Lynch accepted a position as pathologist and bacteriologist in 1924 at Wellington Hospital and married his wife Cecilia and set up their first home in Hataitai.
Later, living in Khandallah, he remembered the phone going often as the police called him out to crime scenes.
He went into private practise in 1932.
His own words describe his cases better than we ever could,
"There were cases in which the body I examined carried bullet holes, contained poison, had been axed or bashed, had been incinerated, was probably hung, was dismembered. Some were exhumed before I examined them.”
In 1954 he received a CBE - Commander of the British Empire and in 1966 he became chancellor of Victoria University and a portrait of him in that role is part of the university’s art collection.
For 30 years he was considered the Crown’s principal witness for matters of death.
Lynch died on July 25, 1978 and is buried in Karori Cemetery.