DNA experts to review yacht club murder

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2006, 12:00am

Police, chemists join forces to re-examine open cases with help of advances in genetic technology

The high-profile murder of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's manager in December 2002 will be re-examined as part of a review of unsolved cases by government chemists, sources familiar with such investigations said.

Although DNA evidence had been analysed by investigators trying to solve the murder of Judy Nip Ho Mo-ling, the technology and its ability to identify culprits had since been improved, the sources said.

The 41-year-old mother of twin boys was found battered and stabbed to death in the club's Causeway Bay offices, with her handbag, watch and other valuables missing. No suspects have been arrested despite the offer of a $600,000 reward by police and the yacht club.

The review of the case comes after government chemists have cleared a backlog of cases that accumulated after a DNA bank was opened in 2002.

The scientists are now gearing up to take a more active role in partnership with police.

In the past the chemists have waited for the police to pass them evidence for review but 'in most cases, we didn't have a clear picture of the whole case', said Bobbie Cheung Kwok-keung, acting chief chemist of the Government Laboratory's DNA section.

'We would just test whatever evidence the police wanted us to work on. Now, we will take the initiative and ask them to provide us with a list of unsolved cases in which DNA tests have not been conducted, say a certain quota every month, and we will sit down with the police to look into them,' Mr Cheung said.

Albert Ng Kam-wing, the chief superintendent who is representing police in the talks with the scientists, said the police welcomed the move but that details of the arrangement had still to be finalised.

Mr Cheung's predecessor - veteran DNA expert Tsui Pui, who brought the technology to Hong Kong during the early 1990s - said re-examination of old evidence with the new DNA test could be fruitful as traditional blood tests had an identification capacity of as low as one in 5,000, compared with one in a quadrillion (1 ? 1015) for the DNA test.

Last year, the lab used DNA tests to identify new leads in a child- molestation case. A semen sample left at the scene was confirmed to belong to a suspect who had walked free because of insufficient evidence.

The less reliable blood test continued to be used to identify culprits years after DNA technology became available in 1993.

David Yee, a man convicted in October 1992 of rape and robbery on what the judge described as the victim's 'compelling' evidence, was the first to benefit from the new technology.

After two years in custody, Mr Yee's conviction was overturned in 1994 on evidence supplied by DNA genetic fingerprinting. The tests ruled him out as the source of the semen on the victim's nightgown.

But there has been no increase in applications for appeals against convictions since the case. Mr Tsui, who was in charge of the DNA lab for 13 years, said he could not recall any application of the DNA tests similar to the Yee case.

'I don't know whether [the prisoners] are all aware of their rights, but it's not up to those outside to speak for them. If you ask me if they should be informed [that new technologies are available to review their cases], I will say yes.'

Unsolved cases

November 8, 2005 A bomb delivered to the chief editor of Ming Pao Daily in a gift-wrapped parcel blows up, injuring a woman. The bomber demands a ransom of $30 million

Mid-October, 2005 The decomposing body of 41-year-old Thai woman Charitar Kamolnoranath is found on a ventilation unit in a supposedly secure machine room on the 33rd floor of Revenue Tower. Her hands were tied behind her back, her shoes placed beside her head and she had been stabbed once

December 25, 2004 The charred body of 55-year-old taxi driver Xa Sui-fok is found in the boot of a burned-out taxi in Tin Shui Wai. Police said he had been robbed. Two men detained during investigations were later released due to insufficient evidence

December 24, 2004 A 28-year-old saleswoman is killed by a single stab from behind on her way home in Yuen Long. Police offer a $300,000 reward

December 18, 2004 An 18- year-old student is killed by a gang on a cycling track in Pak Wo Road near Sheung Shui Police Married Quarters. He was stabbed four times in the back

December 17, 2002 41-year-old Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club manager Judy Nip Ho Mo-ling is found bashed and stabbed to death in the club?s Causeway Bay office, her handbag and watch missing

August 1, 2002 The dismembered body of 34-year-old Shamshuipo prostitute Law Man-lai is found in four bags scattered on a Tsz Wan Shan hillside. The lower part of her torso and a thigh have never been found

January 4, 2002 A half-naked 14-year-old Form Three student is found unconscious in a pool of blood, bashed with a dumb-bell, at her house in Tai Wo Estate and dies the following day

December 17, 2002 41-year-old Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club manager Judy Nip Ho Mo-ling is found bashed and stabbed to death in the club?s Causeway Bay office, her handbag and watch missing

August 19, 1998 Two men stab then Commercial Radio host Albert Cheng King-hon six times in the car park of the broadcaster?s Kowloon Tong headquarters. He survived. Despite a $4 million reward, no arrests have been made

May 15, 1996 Leung Tin-wai, publisher of Surprise Weekly, is attacked by two men in his Quarry Bay office, losing his left forearm and two thumbs. Triad members were blamed and a reward of $5 million was offered