Suspect, 55, held over murder of prostitute in Shamshuipo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, 12:00am

A married man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a prostitute whose near-naked body was found in her torched one-woman brothel in Shamshuipo last month.

Police, who described the arrest as 'like finding a needle in the sea', say they are also investigating whether the suspect was involved in robbing more than 30 prostitutes in western Kowloon since 2004.

The 55-year-old was arrested on Monday night on the fifth day of an operation in which about 50 plain-clothes officers disguised as hawkers and shoppers descended on the district for 10 hours a day.

The operation began after investigators learned that a man matching the description of a person who sold the prostitute's notebook computer to a trader in the Apliu Street second-hand electrical goods market was a regular visitor to the market.

He was identified from a sketch made from a description provided by the trader, said Superintendent Leung Ka-ming, head of the Kowloon West regional crime unit.

'Carrying the sketch, plain-clothes officers disguised as hawkers and shoppers had looked for him in areas such as Apliu Street and Dragon Centre in Shamshuipo between midday and 10pm each day,' Mr Leung said. 'As there are about 7 million people in the city, the manhunt was like finding a needle in the sea. Our officers' effort paid off as the suspect was apprehended on Monday night.'

The man was spotted and arrested in Yen Chow Street outside the Dragon Centre at about 8pm.

The woman, 37-year-old Wong Lam, was found in her torched flat in Cheung Sha Wan Road on June 22. She had been strangled and police said the fire was probably an attempt to destroy evidence.

'The suspect is also accused of stealing the victim's computer, mobile phone, several hundred dollars and setting alight her unit after the killing,' Mr Leung said.

In a follow-up search at the man's Shamshuipo flat, officers seized a leather bag believed to have been used to keep the victim's computer. The man, who is unemployed, lives in the flat with his wife and children.

Handcuffed, hooded and chained around his waist, the suspect was taken to the Cheung Sha Wan Road flat for a video-recorded reconstruction of the crime. Last night he was being questioned at Kowloon City police station and no charges had been laid.

A 33-year-old suspect arrested and released on police bail a week after Wong's killing had been cleared of any connection to the case, police said.

Since 2004, more than 30 prostitutes have been robbed in their one-woman brothels in Kowloon West. Some of the victims were assaulted but none of them were killed. One officer said initial investigations showed that the robberies involved several men who posed as customers to gain entry.

'We are investigating whether the murder suspect is linked with any of the cases,' the officer said.