Janet Gilson

British tourist's body was concealed beneath sofa, court hears

Niece testifies in murder trial of Janet Gilson, 64, who was killed while here on vacation in 2011

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 10:45am

A retired British Salvation Army major was killed while vacationing in Hong Kong, and a sofa in her niece's Lamma Island home was used to hide her body, the Court of First Instance heard.

Ahmed Fareed, 32, earlier pleaded not guilty to one count of murder in relation to the death of 64-year-old Janet Gilson in 2011.

Fareed is the former husband of Gilson's niece Julia. The couple married in 2007, but were already separated at the time of the murder, the court was told yesterday.

Audrey Campbell-Moffat SC, for the prosecution, told the jury the murder took place on March 15, 2011. Gilson, from Essex, had come to Hong Kong on March 5 for a holiday to visit Julia and her young daughter. She stayed with them on Lamma Island.

I saw only her feet. Two days later, I identified her body in the public mortuary
Niece, Julia

But on March 19, Gilson's body was found in Julia's home, "concealed by a sofa", Campbell-Moffat said.

Yesterday, Julia testified that on March 15, she received a text message from her aunt's mobile phone, saying she was travelling to Sok Kwu Wan and Aberdeen.

Julia said she found it "strange" as Gilson did not send text messages to her family, but she was busy at work and hence did not get overly concerned.

However, the niece grew worried when her aunt did not return that evening. Her mobile phone was also switched off. "I knew the phone was off, but I still called and tried to reach her," she said.

When Gilson failed to return to Lamma Island on the 10.30pm ferry that night, Julia reported the matter to the police.

The police then launched an extensive search for the missing woman in the days following her disappearance, but they did not manage to locate her.

It was not until four days later that Gilson's body was found.

On March 19, as Julia was setting her daughter, then aged three, down on the sofa at home, she suddenly noticed a drop on the carpet. It was dark red in colour, she said.

Feeling that something was amiss, Julia called the police to report the matter. She also complained to them about a foul smell in the house.

The police then came and carried out a search in her home. "I took my daughter to my friend's house. I did not want her to see it," Julia said, adding that the police also told her to remain outside the house.

Her aunt's body was eventually discovered, covered by the sofa. "I saw only her feet. Two days later, I identified her body in the public mortuary," said Julia.

Fareed was arrested that evening after Gilson's body was found, the court was told. The prosecution said no one was present during the murder other than the accused and the victim.

As the trial continues before Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore, a range of witnesses will be called to give evidence. Expert witnesses will give their opinions on fabric found at the scene of the crime, the court was told.

Julia will be cross-examined by defence counsel David Khosa today. She had in 2011 described Gilson as her "second mother", who had devoted her life to working for the Salvation Army. It was Gilson's fifth visit to Hong Kong, she said.