Hong Kong High Court resumes hearing jury trials after closures due to Covid-19

Jasmine Siu

The High Court has resumed hearing jury trials amid the coronavirus pandemic, with seven Hong Kong jurors empanelled to try a woman accused of murdering her six-year-old grandson two years ago.

Prosecutor Michael Arthur on Monday opened his case against Kan Kwai-fong, 54, who has denied murdering her grandson, Endless Cheng Ting-hin, on March 18, 2018.

The court heard the woman was accused of strangling the child with a brown nylon strap removed from a rucksack and attempting to stop rescuers from resuscitating him because he had allegedly been suffering from mental illness.

Cheng died an hour after arriving at a hospital, with his cause of death believed to be mechanical asphyxiation caused by ligature strangulation.

But his mother calmly agreed with the defence’s suggestions that she had forgiven Kan and accepted what happened to be completely out of character for someone who loved him very much, after she revealed the defendant’s history of mental health.

Grandmother accused of murdering grandson, 6, at love hotel now in hospital

Kan’s case was the first criminal trial to open in the Court of First Instance since the judiciary closed all courts, except for urgent and essential hearings, in late January amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arthur said the case began in the morning of March 17, 2018, when Kan went out to meet a friend for dim sum at Dragon Palace Restaurant on Ma Tau Wai Road.

But before meeting the friend, Yip Yun-fai, with her grandson, she went to a hardware shop on the same road and bought a knife, the prosecutor said.

After lunch, Arthur said, the three of them caught a bus to Aberdeen, where Kan bought toys for her grandson, and travelled further to Cyberport, before returning to Central where Yip parted ways.

Arthur said Kan then checked into Beverley Hotel on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai, where Cheng was last seen alive on surveillance camera footage at about 8.30pm.

“In this hotel, the defendant murdered her grandson,” Arthur said.

Beverly Hotel in Capital Building on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai. Photo: Dickson Lee

The case was reported by a cleaner soon before 1am on the following day, after she allegedly saw Kan carrying the boy and had a brief conversation with the grandmother.

Arthur said Kan later told a paramedic that her grandson was dead and that she had killed him by strangling him.

She was also said to have told rescuers not to resuscitate him as he suffered from mental illness, and she allegedly tried to prevent officers from administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Kan was arrested at Ruttonjee Hospital, where police seized a rucksack from her and found it had a missing strap that was later located at the hotel, along with the newly bought knife, according to Arthur.

Her daughter, Wong Sze-man, testified that she had expected to study with Cheng that night until Kan called to say she had checked into a hotel because they were very tired after the day.

Wong said she last spoke to Kan over the phone after 10pm to check on Cheng, who had called earlier to tell her that he was very happy because he had gone out for fun.

Kan reportedly told Wong that her son was still up watching television and arranged to meet for dim sum the following morning.

About three hours later, Wong received a call from the hospital.

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Her testimony revealed that Kan had suffered from a mental illness “for a long time” and had even tried to hang herself in a suicide attempt that she prevented by cutting the rope.

But Wong also agreed with suggestions from defence counsel Jim Sherry that she was generally happy with how Kan had helped her to raise her son as she loved him very much, showing concern for his health, emotional well-being and studies.

“Although you are his natural mother, she really stepped into the shoes on a daily basis of being his mother,” Sherry said. “Is it correct that you had actually forgiven your mother for what she had done to your son?”

“Correct,” Wong replied.

The 10-day trial will continue before a jury of two men and five women on Tuesday.

Madam Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping said various measures had been taken to respect social-distancing rules.

Transparent panels have been erected around the bench, the bar table, the dock, the jury box, the witness box and the interpreter’s seat in Toh’s courtroom, while the seating capacity of her public gallery and press seats have been reduced by half.

Potential jurors were first brought to a separate floor, where a lobby has been set up with sparse seating and live-streamed telecast for jury selection.

All court users were required to wear masks, except when potential jurors were asked to briefly show their faces during the selection process and for witnesses while they testified.

Jurors were also given a separate room for lunch as the building’s canteen remained closed.

This article Hong Kong High Court resumes hearing jury trials after closures due to Covid-19 first appeared on South China Morning Post

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