Extra jail time for burglar who stole and ruined Hong Kong Gold Bauhinia Star medal of businessman Jim Thompson

Judge says sentimental value of object cannot be measured by money

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 11:17pm

A mainland man who burgled the mansion of an American businessman last year was jailed for two years and two months on Tuesday, including an extra three months for charring the Gold Bauhinia Star medal he stole and damaging the sentimental value of the object.

The District Court heard that Fu Yingwu, a 26-year-old excavator operator from the southwestern province of Guizhou, arrived in Hong Kong on a seven-day tourist visa on September 3 last year.

Two days later he broke into the three-storey house of billionaire Jim Thompson at Manderly Gardens in the upscale district of Shouson Hill on southern Hong Kong Island, making off with about HK$40,000 worth of watches, jewellery and cufflinks, as well as two Gold Bauhinia Star medals belonging to the businessman.

Fu was spotted at Wong Chuk Hang Path – about 2km from the house – on the same evening by officers in a patrol car.

Police recovered the valuables in a black rucksack he was carrying. Fu initially claimed he purchased the items at a shop in Aberdeen.

He was remanded last year and pleaded guilty to burglary on Tuesday.

But District Court judge Eddie Yip Chor-man said one of the two Gold Bauhinia Star medals was charred and had a “purplish colour resembling an eggplant”.

“It looks very ugly now ... I don’t know whether [the medal] should be kept or thrown away even if it is now recovered,” he said, asking if Fu had done it.

The medal’s appearance has definitely been damaged
Eddie Yip Chor-man, District Court judge

Fu denied it at first, but made a U-turn after the judge repeatedly warned defence lawyer Herman Hui Heon-ming that his client risked losing the one-third sentence reduction offered to a guilty plea.

“The medal’s appearance has definitely been damaged. It represents the victim’s honour and carries commemorative value ... [these qualities] cannot be gauged by money,” the judge said.

In mitigation, Hui said his client had only wanted to save up for marriage and that he was also under pressure to care for his unemployed parents. “Upon reflection in custody, [Fu] realised this was something he should not have done,” Hui added, pointing out that his client had no criminal record in the city.

The judge imposed the minimum imprisonment of three years for burglary, and added three months for charring the medal before slashing the term by one-third to 26 months for a guilty plea.

Thompson, 77, was awarded the medals, which recognise distinguished service to the community, in 2003.

The founder of Crown Worldwide Group was ranked the 40th richest person in Hong Kong by Forbes, with a net worth of US$1.45 billion as of Tuesday.