SCMP Saturday, March 10, 2001

Three get life for killing researcher


An unemployed man, his ex-lover and a female accomplice were jailed for life yesterday for murdering a university researcher and dumping her body in a hole on Cheung Chau.
Mrs Justice Verina Bokhary passed life sentences on unemployed Hero Cheng Man-kit, 30, his former lover, shop assistant Leung Yee-wah, 23, and accounts clerk Yeung Ka-yee, 23, at the Court of First Instance.
Lawyer Edward McGuinniety, for Cheng, said his client wanted to tell the court and the jurors he felt "very, very sorry for what happened". "If he could turn the time back, things would be very different," the barrister said.
The three defendants murdered Connie O Tan, a researcher with the faculty of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong, on October 21, 1999.
The victim knew Cheng and Yeung through a male friend she met in an Internet chat room, the court was told.
Prosecutor Joseph Pethes has said Cheng lured O, 35, to a rented room in a villa on Cheung Chau, where the trio subdued her with chloroform with the intention of robbing her.
The unconscious victim was then gagged and bound. But later, in a semi-conscious state, she recognised two of them and where she was, the court heard.
Mr Pethes said the defendants then decided to kill her by suffocation. Leung and Yeung held O's arms and legs while Cheng put a pillow over her face and sat on it until she died.
They dumped her body in a hole 200 metres from the villa.
Four toxic substances, including the chloroform, were found in her organs. A pathologist could not determine if the victim was suffocated or poisoned.
The three were arrested on Cheung Chau on October 29, 1999, when they met up to try to hide O's body properly.
Mr Pethes said a bank card belonging to the victim's father was used to withdraw $6,200 on the night of the murder and $3,600 the next morning.
O's credit cards were also used to buy a $24,000 Rolex watch, clothing and shoes the next week.
Cheng told the jury that Yeung, whom he claimed had first suggested they team up to rob O, had confessed to killing her.