Killings were manslaughter, not murder, banker’s barrister tells Hong Kong jury
Rurik Jutting had descended into homicidal madness and was not in control when he attacked the two Indonesian women, defence counsel Tim Owen argues in closing submission
A British banker asked a jury on Friday to return a verdict of manslaughter for his savage killing of two Indonesian women as the court was told how his life had entered a catastrophic decline into homicidal madness before he slit their throats.
Tim Owen QC said his client Rurik Jutting, 31, who has denied murder, was the only one to blame for the “unbelievably cruel, savage violence” that ended the lives of Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 26, in 2014.
But he called for a verdict of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility, which he said was an acknowledgement to mental frailty, as he argued that Jutting was suffering multiple mental disorders that rendered his mind abnormal and substantially impaired his ability to control his actions at the time.
“He’s not seeking a way to avoid responsibility, I cannot emphasise that point further,” Owen said, addressing the nine-strong jury for the first time in closing submissions at the High Court. “The verdict of manslaughter is not a soft option.”
He introduced his client as a young man who seemed to have everything going for him – well educated with an IQ of 137 that placed him in the top 1 per cent of the population and a big salary running into millions of Hong Kong dollars.
The court heard that Jutting was named after the first imperial dynasty in Russia called Rurik, meaning the “great one, special one”, by his mother, a hardworking businesswoman born in Hong Kong to a Chinese mother and a policeman sacked for corruption in the 1980s.
“But of course, surface impressions can be misleading,” Owen continued. “Underneath his apparent golden life, there are already very serious problems. Some emerge in his teenage life, all of which emerge in terrible consequences in 2014.”
The court heard that the Cambridge law graduate was earning £260,000 (HK$2.5 million) a year by the end of 2012 when corporate audit issues arose and he was pushed into a different part of the business at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
It was a negative turning point in his career, Owen said, as he quoted from a psychiatrist who concluded that Jutting could not handle a setback of that kind.
When Jutting became acquainted with a drug dealer a month before the killings, he began using cocaine in industrial quantities. It was a “catastrophic decline into homicidal, sadistic madness”, Owen said, as Jutting became never truly sober from the effects of alcohol and cocaine.
“To say his life was a total mess would be an understatement. The life he once had ... had collapsed, it had just gone down the drain and it seems his ability to reverse his life had gone down the drain as well,” the barrister continued.
“The once highly successful, highly achieving, brilliant superman investment banker, a young man earning several million Hong Kong dollars a year had become a bloated, unshaven, permanently intoxicated, isolated and depraved drug and alcohol addict.”
Psychiatrists for both prosecution and defence had diagnosed the Briton with cocaine and alcohol use disorders, but they disagreed on whether those disorders had substantially impaired Jutting’s ability to control himself.
Prosecutor John Reading SC said the evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Jutting murdered both victims as he had the ability to control his cocaine and alcohol intake, despite the cravings, and perform tasks he chose to do.
He had control, Reading said, in the persistent cutting of Sumarti’s throat as he had slit her throat once before he dragged her to the shower to finish the kill.
He also noted that Jutting was using the drug for “Dutch courage” to carry out Seneng’s murder as he quoted the defendant as saying: “I took cocaine deliberately this evening in order to be mentally ready to kill her. I don’t think I can do it without cocaine.”
Reading said: “Miss Ningsih was killed because she could recognise the defendant as the man who had inflicted such terrible and mental torture on her, and Miss Mujiasih was killed because she did not obey and he lost his temper.
“You will notice that I referred to the two victims by their names because they were, until the defendant took their lives away, they were living human beings ... not sex objects as the defendant describes them.”
The trial continues before deputy judge Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore.