Faith sustains rampage survivor

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 February, 2002, 12:00am

Religion is helping a 12-year-old survivor of her father's murderous rampage last month to cope with the trauma of the attacks, the girl's mother said yesterday.

The woman said she would abandon her family's possessions in the Tsz Wan Shan flat which was the scene of the killings, explaining that she did not want her daughter to face any reminder of the January 20 chopper attack.

Yip Lai-kwok, 12, was seriously injured by her unemployed father, Yip Kit-lun, who hanged himself in the flat after killing his nine-year-old son, Pit-hoi, and daughter Lai-in, 10.

The tragedy came days after a court awarded custody of the girls to their mother, who was separated from her husband. The custody of Pit-hoi was to have been decided at a later date.

Lai-kwok is still receiving treatment in Queen Elizabeth Hospital after doctors reattached two fingers on her left hand. The index finger on her right hand, however, cannot be reattached.

Her mother, who is still in hospital under observation and was giving her first interview since the tragedy, said Lai-kwok was coping well and that her religious faith was giving her courage.

'Lai-kwok believes her brother and sister are now in heaven. But it's difficult for me to think the same way,' the mother, who asked not to be named, said.

'I still feel so sad about what has happened and the pain just won't go away. Whatever happened, even if I suddenly became very rich overnight, I still wouldn't ever be happy again.

'I see their school notebooks and read every word they wrote. I feel like I am still helping them with their homework.'

The two younger children's notebooks, Lai-kwok's Hong Kong Red Cross uniform, her textbooks and comics were the only items their mother recovered from the flat.

'We are going to move to a new flat. I decided to leave all the other things in the old flat behind, even though much of the furniture and the electronic appliances are still very new,' she said.

'I'm worried that these things will remind Lai-kwok about what happened. Scene after scene, she witnessed it all, from the chopping to the hanging of her father. I asked Lai-kwok if we should throw everything away, and she agreed.

'She appears to be strong, but I'm worried that she will live under the shadow of the incident.'

Lai-kwok's mother said her daughter wrote her a card a week after the incident with the help of her friends, asking her not to worry about her and saying she would take care of her mother for the rest of her life.

'The first thing she said after she woke up was to ask the nurse to tell me that she's fine and I didn't need to worry about her,' she said.

She added that Lai-kwok was longing to return to school, where her friends and teachers have been offering support.

She said many other people, including complete strangers, visited her and Lai-kwok at the hospital, sending stuffed toys, clothes and chocolates.

'An elderly woman who I don't know came all the way from Tsuen Wan to see me,' she said. 'She didn't see me on the first day, but she came back again and again.

'She didn't see me until the third day as I had been too busy with the funeral of my children that week. She insisted on seeing me to hand me a card and a bunch of flowers in person.'

She said she was depending on her daughter's support.

'If Lai-kwok had not survived, there would not have been any meaning for me to carry on living,' she added.

She also expressed thanks to all the people who had given her the support and donations, including the readers of the South China Morning Post.

However, after paying for the funeral of her two children and facing the expense of moving home, Lai-kwok's mother - who quit her job after the tragedy - said financial problems had added to her burden. 'I don't dare think too much about the future,' she said. 'I just don't know how I'm going to cope.'

Graphic: MOM08GET