Police may have fired at hostage's seat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 March, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong's own inquest into the Manila bus hijacking, in which eight Hongkongers died, yesterday heard that at least one of the bullets fired by police may have entered the bus at a point where a hostage was seated.

The Hong Kong hearing is seeking to establish whether all those killed were executed by the gunman or whether any were killed in cross-fire as police stormed the bus in Manila's Rizal Park on August 23.

In October, the Philippines' own inquiry into the massacre, whose findings and recommendations 'disappointed' Hong Kong's government, found that all those who died, including seven tourists and one tour guide, were shot by the gunman, policeman Rolando Mendoza.

Evidence that at least one of scores of bullets fired into the bus came from police was given to the Hong Kong inquest by ballistics expert Superintendent Raymond Chan Siu-kei of the Hong Kong police, testifying for a second day as the coroner's inquiry ended its third week.

The bullet, from a pistol, could have directly entered the third row behind the driver's seat, one of 23 that entered the bus from outside, Chan said. The court heard earlier that survivor Amy Leung Ng Yau-woon had been sitting there. Fu Cheuk-yan, 39, who was sitting behind her, died.

Mendoza was on board the bus, armed with a pistol and an M16 rifle, as police attacked. Philippine police used the same type of rifle but different pistols. Four types of gun were involved in the shooting.

Sixty-two bullet marks were found on the exterior of the bus, the court heard. Some were found on the wheels and side mirrors.

Chan said that bullets were either deformed or broken into fragments after they struck the windows. 'These fragments, mixed with glass fragments, continue to travel,' he told the court. 'It is possible for bullet fragments to cause injuries.'

The fragments could travel at least 2.5 metres - approximately the width of the bus - if their path was not obstructed by objects such as seats, the court heard earlier.

Of the 23 shots that could have entered the seating area, Chan said fragments from seven bullets - fired with pistols at the windscreen - could have entered. He said these fragments would not have been able to travel to the back of the bus. The court heard earlier that marks left by bullet fragments inside the bus were found either at the back or in the ceiling in the front part of the bus.

Three bullets, near passenger seats, might have entered at a narrow angle. They would have been less powerful than those aimed perpendicular to the glass, Chan said. 'In ballistics simulation, [shooting at this narrow angle] pierced the glass but the bullet did not travel to the other side of the glass,' he said.

The bullet fragments and cartridge cases found at the scene in Rizal Park and on the bus were given to Chan by a superintendent of the Philippine National Police. Chan then confirmed the rifling marks left on cartridge cases from gun barrels, which the superintendent had already numbered for the record.

Chan's analysis was based on ballistics examinations of 102 shots. Shots fired at different angles revealed differences in the impact on the type of laminated glass.

The inquest continues on Monday before Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu.