Probation for son who killed his mother

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2006, 12:00am

A schizophrenic who killed his disabled elderly mother by pouring boiling water over her head was yesterday sentenced to three years' probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Cheung Siu-wah, 48, had pleaded guilty in the Court of First Instance to the manslaughter of his 76-year-old mother, So Kiu, on August 8 last year.

Mr Justice Michael Lunn accepted Cheung's culpability for So's death was low, describing the situation in which the crime took place as a 'veritable tinderbox'.

The court had heard that after his father was placed in an old people's home, Cheung, who suffered from severe schizophrenia with auditory hallucinations, had become the sole carer for So, who had been incapacitated by a series of strokes several years earlier.

Mr Justice Lunn accepted that even before she became ill, So had been a 'domineering, temperamental and demanding mother' - a situation that worsened after she suffered the strokes.

Cheung's five siblings had all married and moved out of the family home by 2000.

Cheung admitted that on the morning of August 6, So had berated him for returning late with her lunchbox to the flat they shared. He told police that at the time she was telling him off, he had heard voices urging him to chop her to death - a plan which he rejected.

Instead, he went into the kitchen, boiled a kettle of water and tipped it over his mother's head 'to teach her a lesson'. Immediately afterwards, both he and his mother started calling for help from neighbours, and Cheung called 999, informing them of what he had done.

So was taken to the burns unit at Prince of Wales Hospital. She was pronounced dead on August 8.

Mr Justice Lunn said it was lamentable that Cheung had been left to fend for both himself and his mother.

'Given the well-known effects of your illness - the inability to cope with frustrating or stressful circumstances - the situation was a veritable tinderbox,' Mr Justice Lunn said. 'The sad death of your mother was surely a predictable risk.'

He said Cheung's brothers and sisters had admitted to feeling guilty about the situation they had left him in and were willing to take care of him.