Top Hong Kong court orders retrial for man convicted of murder over death of wife in ‘frenzied attack’
Court of Final Appeal rules that trial judge failed to give adequate directions in case involving provocation
Hong Kong’s top court has ordered a retrial for a man who was found guilty of murder after strangling and stabbing his wife 213 times during a “frenzied attack”.
In a judgment handed down on Tuesday, the Court of Final Appeal threw out Liang Yaoqiang’s murder conviction after finding a judge had given inadequate direction during the 2014 trial for the murder of his wife, Yeung Sau-yu.
Liang, who is now 48, admitted killing Yeung, who was then 35, in their Cheung Sha Wan home in September 2009 in what a forensic pathologist described as a “frenzied attack”, but claimed he had been provoked because she cheated on him and taunted him.
A defence of provocation may lead to a charge of murder, which carries a life sentence, being lowered to the lesser offence of manslaughter, on the basis that the defendant was provoked to the extent that he lost self-control.
The penalty for manslaughter is at the discretion of the sentencing judge.
According to the judgment, Liang suspected his wife of having an affair, and came home on September 11, 2009, to find a used condom.
He began arguing with his wife, and although they briefly had sex, the argument continued and escalated.
Yeung taunted Liang about his looks and sexual prowess compared with her other lovers and suggested he should jump to his death, according to the judgment.
“On confronting her with a used condom he had found discarded in the premises that day, Madam Yeung thrust this into his mouth and told him to eat it,” the judgment said.
When Yeung suggested he was not the father of their child, Liang went into the kitchen, fetched a meat cleaver and “in a fury, chopped randomly at Madam Yeung”.
At trial, the judge directed the jury to consider whether an ordinary person would have been provoked to act as Liang had.
But Court of Final Appeal judges found the direction was inadequate.
Justices Robert Ribeiro, Robert Tang Ching, Joseph Fok, Frank Stock and Lord Julian Millet said the jury should have been asked to consider whether, in the face of the provocation, a person with the powers of self-control to be expected of an ordinary member of society today would or might have done the same.
“The jury should not be led into thinking that killing by inflicting 213 wounds would deprive the accused of the provocation defence, whereas killing by some lesser number of wounds would not,” the judgment noted.
The judges noted that there was a need for particular direction in cases dealing with the defence of provocation, and set out a suggested direction for all juries dealing with such questions.
Liang’s lawyers had asked for the murder charge to be replaced by a manslaughter charge, but the judges found that would not be appropriate.