Accused in mistress murder case cleared after Hong Kong court rules trial judge misdirected jury
Jury had found married director guilty of murder even though there was no body, no forensic evidence and no confession
Hong Kong’s first successful murder conviction without a body, forensic evidence or a confession was on Wednesday quashed by an appeal court which found the trial judge had misdirected the jury through a “rather surprising” omission.
The Court of Appeal cleared Ivan Chan Man-sum after its three-judge panel concluded that Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore had failed to direct the jury accurately and adequately on the drawing of inferences in a case where prosecutors relied solely on circumstantial evidence.
Chan, 44, who was previously sentenced to life imprisonment, now faces a fresh trial to be fixed within 28 days.
The higher court noted the direction – that was delivered just before jurors began their deliberation – failed to explain that an inference against the defendant could only be drawn if it was “the only reasonable inference.”
“It is rather surprising that the judge did not direct the jury in those very simple terms,” Mr Justice Michael Lunn wrote on behalf of Mr Justice Andrew Macrae and Mr Justice Ian McWalters. “The judge’s directions were material misdirections.”
Police previously said the conviction was the first of its kind since the British set up open courts in the city.
The married securities company director was unanimously convicted in August 2015 by a seven-member jury of murdering his mistress, nightclub hostess Chun Ka-yee, 33.
She was last sighted on October 5, 2011 when CCTV captured her returning to her Amoy Gardens flat, which Chan helped buy after they began an intimate relationship in mid-2008.
Prosecutors alleged Chan killed her the next day when he made two visits, between which he bought heavy duty household gloves, deodoriser, a vacuum storage bag and four rolls of 300-foot cling wrap.
He was filmed returning again for a short visit on October 7, after which he left wheeling a plastic bag on a trolley.
Prosecutors also relied on the fact that Chan cleaned his car on October 9 and arranged for a decorator to clear the flat a few days later, while Chun’s family and friends reported that they had lost contact with her since October 5.
The court also heard her bank accounts were untouched since October 4, and there was no immigration record of her leaving Hong Kong.
The defence argued her disappearance had nothing to do with Chan as she was prepared to move out after his wife discovered the affair.
It was also suggested that she had merely chosen to disappear, leaving the building without being seen and had then killed herself.