Jobless Hong Kong man set fire to taxi after failing to pay full fare

Court told how passenger used paint thinner to set cab ablaze

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 6:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 6:50pm

An unemployed man admitted setting a taxi on fire after failing to pay for his ride.

The District Court heard on Monday that Chan Woon-ming was travelling from To Kwa Wan to Tuen Mun on August 7 last year when he told the driver he did not have enough cash and needed to borrow from relatives.

But as the driver followed his instructions to locate his relatives, he smelled thinner and noticed Chan was smoking in the passenger seat. The driver asked Chan to get out and he did so after handing over HK$60 but not the full fare.

As the 71-year-old cabbie got out to give chase, he looked back to see his taxi on fire. The damage to the vehicle cost HK$120,000 and a nearby minibus also suffered damage estimated at HK$16,670.

Among items found in Chan’s bag were a bottle of kerosene and a bottle of toluene, a highly flammable liquid used in thinning paints.

He pleaded guilty before deputy district judge Don So Man-lung to one count of arson and will be sentenced on April 10, pending reports on his psychiatric condition. In the meantime, he was remanded at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre.

The defence stressed in mitigation that no one was injured and Chan had admitted his crime. But the court heard he could not pay for the damage.

Arson is punishable by life imprisonment, but the District Court can only hand down a maximum sentence of seven years’ jail.