Russian police reveal HK student's fatal error

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2003, 12:00am

The 22-year-old allegedly got into the wrong car during her stopover in Moscow

It was an innocent mistake. But Russian police investigating the execution-style killing of Hong Kong artist Luk Pui-man believe it was a fatal one.

'She got into the wrong car,' an investigator with the police department of the Moscow region said yesterday. 'She got into a car that she should not have got into.'

The 22-year-old's body was found in a forest near the village of Pirogova, about 50km outside Moscow. Her face, head and body were riddled with shotgun pellets.

Police believe her killers led her into the forest and executed her on the spot. Her body was found on June 27, three days after she was murdered.

She was killed for her mobile phone, digital camera, wallet and credit cards, Russian police say.

According to the police, a number of foreign tourists had recently been targeted in a series of random robberies by criminals pretending to be taxi drivers. 'We are treating it as a random robbery. We believe she was tricked into getting into the car by someone pretending to be a taxi driver,' the police source said.

Police have no suspects in the murder inquiry, and last night were retracing her last moments.

Luk, a media graduate from City University, was last seen changing money in the centre of Moscow on the evening of June 23. She was booked to stay the night in the Soyuz airport hotel.

She had decided to go sightseeing alone in the city during the one-night stopover in Moscow before returning to Hong Kong after spending several months as an artist-in-residence in Estonia.

Aeroflot officials yesterday confirmed she flew out of Hong Kong on March 2. After a number of flight changes, she had settled on a 7pm booking to fly home on June 24, the official said.

When she did not show up at the airport for the flight her mother called Hong Kong police for help.

Her family has since flown to Moscow to assist the criminal investigation with the Chinese embassy, Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and police.

A Hong Kong Security Bureau spokeswoman yesterday said: 'We have been following up the matter through the Chinese embassy in Russia. We will maintain contacts with the family members and provide them with feasible assistance.'

CityU confirmed Luk had graduated in creative media last year. 'We understand that she had been an artist-in-residence in Estonia for a few months on a programme she had arranged herself,' the statement said. 'The university is saddened by her death.'

Her murder follows the gangland killings of leading Hong Kong criminal lawyer Gary Alderdice and his young Russian female companion in Vladivostok in 1994.

The case gained widespread coverage after it was revealed the barrister had flown to the Russian city to buy the freedom of his prostitute lover from Russian mafia.