Stowaway trial told of weird 'old man'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am


A flight attendant yesterday told a court hearing charges against two airport ground employees how he became suspicious of what appeared to be 'a strange old man' with youthful looking hands who had boarded a flight to Canada in October.

Eddie Chau Heung-ping (pictured), who said he had worked for Air Canada since 1995, was giving evidence on the second day of the trial of Chau Pak-kin, 26, and Chan Wing-chung, 27, who are accused of helping to smuggle stowaways on flights to Canada.

Both defendants deny one count of conspiracy to obtain services by deception with their supervisor and other persons unknown, between March 1 and December 16, to allow seven unauthorised passengers to board four Air Canada planes flying from Hong Kong to Canada.

Eddie Chau said he was serving economy class on flight AC 18 on October 29 when he noticed an 'elderly' man sitting near the toilet. Chau's colleagues directed the man to sit elsewhere, in seat 43B.

He said he had been alerted by ground staff members and a passenger about the suspicious traveller's youthful-looking hands, so he and a colleague took a closer look at the man. 'I could see only his profile. His head was facing downward. He looked like a Caucasian but had a lot of wrinkles on his face,' Chau said. He alerted his supervisors, who in turn called in a ground staff member and informed the pilot, Chau said. The pilot nevertheless ordered the aircraft's doors to be closed for take-off.

Almost four hours into the flight, Chau said, he noticed the 'old man' had disappeared from seat 43B and that a young Chinese man was being stopped from occupying the seat by a woman sitting next to it, apparently because she thought it was reserved for the old man.

Speaking Putonghua, the young man told Chau that he was supposed to be sitting somewhere around row 50 but there was no empty seat nearby. He could not present a boarding pass. 'I felt suspicious so I told my first supervisor,' the attendant said.

After searching the plane unsuccessfully for the old man, the crew members turned on the seat belt signs so that all passengers had to take their seats. But the young man still wandered along the aisle.

Chau again asked the man to present his boarding pass and passport, but he said he had none. 'I asked how he could enter Canada without a passport. From that minute on, he did not answer any questions,' Chau said.

Referred to as Mr X in the District Court this week, the 20-year-old stowaway was reported in February to have been given bail after an Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator ordered his release on condition he post a C$5,000 (HK$39,100) bond and report weekly to the Canada Border Services Agency. He is now living with a Chinese-Canadian person in Toronto who is closely linked to his family in mainland China.

The case continues today.