Police turn to technology in sex-worker murders

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 February, 2009, 12:00am

Police will use computer analysis on all their leads in the hunt for the killer or killers of three prostitutes last month, a senior police said.

The latest murder - of a 38-year-old Thai woman in a To Kwa Wan flat on Saturday - has sparked fear among sex workers that a serial killer could be on the loose.

It followed two similar cases, in Sau Mau Ping and Tsuen Wan, on January 10 and 11. All three women had died from suffocation, according to the autopsies.

'We are putting in more resources to look at the common traits in the three cases, such as the motives, the appearances and the background of the victims,' the source said yesterday.

The details would then be fed into a computer system, known as the Major Incident Investigation and Disaster Support System, for analysis. The system was introduced in 1991 and is usually used to hunt serial killers. The system was also used to trace close contacts of Sars patients in 2003 and the identity of those missing in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

The crime wing at police headquarters would co-ordinate intelligence and support, while the investigations would be conducted by crime units in the three districts, the source said.

The possibility of copycat crimes had not been ruled out, the source said, adding that the force was considering offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer or killers.

Police chief Tang King-shing said yesterday no effort was being spared in the investigation and the force had stepped up communication with sex workers.

Lawmakers and prostitutes' concern groups, however, criticised police for their slow response to complaints during a Legislative Council security panel meeting yesterday.

Lam Yee-ling, a representative of the prostitutes' concern group Zi Teng, said prostitutes were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment when in detention.

Ms Lam said there had been no response into a complaint concerning 28-year-old sex worker Li Wan-yi, who jumped to her death in 2005 after claiming she had been framed for theft, blackmail and attacking a police officer.

But principal assistant secretary for security Apollonia Liu Lee Ho-kei said the case had been declared 'unproven' and closed in October.

Ms Lam said the woman's family had not been informed of this conclusion. Lawmakers immediately called on Mrs Liu to explain.

'Don't you think it is extremely unfair and insensitive to reveal this in this public occasion?' asked legislator Cheung Man-kwong, noting that Mrs Liu only revealed the conclusion, but not the report itself.

Mrs Liu replied that it was up to the Complaints Against Police Office to inform the relevant parties and that she would make inquiries.