Murder fear as pair found in play den fire

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 February, 1999, 12:00am

Police were trying to establish last night if two charred bodies found in a burnt-out children's play hut in Tuen Mun were those of two teenage boys missing from nearby Pillar Point open camp.

They believe the victims may have been killed before the fire because there was no sign that they tried to flee. Murder has not been ruled out.

Door-to-door inquiries were conducted at the camp for Vietnamese refugees about 200 metres away from the scene after two families reported that their 12- and 14-year-old sons had not returned home after going out early yesterday.

The bodies were so badly burned that they had shrunk in size and their skulls and bones were cracked by the heat.

Preliminary investigation could only establish that both bodies were male.

Firefighters rushed to the scene at 7.30am after seeing a hill fire from Pillar Point Fire Station.

The bodies were discovered when the flames were doused and police were called.

The bodies were found lying on a mattress in what had been a simple wooden hut. One body was facing down and the other one sideways.

Two bikes, one for an adult and one for a teenager, were found at the scene. Scientists from the Government Laboratory also took away a two-litre bucket, with a partially burnt bag with clothes inside, and gas and water samples for further examination.

Police said the case was suspicious and could not rule out the possibility that the victims had not died at the scene of the fire.

'If it was a fire accident they would have run for their lives. But there was no sign of any struggle,' Senior Superintendent of New Territories North's regional crime squad Albert Kwok Cho-kuen said.

'They were found lying on a mattress, which meant they were unconscious or already dead when the fire started.' Scientists also had detected a smell of an inflammable substance.

Refugees from the Pillar Point open camp said it was common for children to play on the hillside.

'We would sometimes bring our toys to play at the hut and stay there overnight,' one of the children at the camp said.

They said the hut was built by the youngsters from their camp as a temporary shelter from the sun and a place to play.

A Police Tactical Unit was deployed for a hill search to see if there were any suspect instruments related to the death.

Officers also interviewed the families who reported their sons missing.