Lap-dancer Chinese bride slain by jealous British husband, court told

Chinese wife who vanished, pregnant, a month after marriage was murdered by property tycoon consumed by jealousy, London jury told

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 November, 2013, 7:19am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 November, 2013, 7:19am

When British property tycoon Robert Ekaireb and Chinese lap-dancer Li Hau Cao met in a nightclub in Ireland, they were smitten with each other, and within months they were married and expecting their first child.

The pair had finally found their perfect partners - a beautiful, exotic wife for him, a wealthy Western husband for her.

But a trial at the Old Bailey in London heard last week that Li's lap-dancing past provoked a jealousy in millionaire Ekaireb, 38, that he could never control.

He is accused of flying into a jealous rage and murdering the pregnant 27-year-old from Dalian within a month of tying the knot. He then made her body disappear into "thin air", the jury was told.

"The evidence presents a picture of a man who had become totally obsessed by Li Hua after first meeting her, and thereafter sought to control her," prosecutor Brian Altman QC said.

"But he was exercised by her past, in particular the fact she had been a lap dancer, and he would bring it up in discussions and arguments."

Ekaireb was so "paranoid" he demanded Li take a lie-detector test to prove the paternity of her unborn baby.

He also consulted a private detective because he feared she was having an affair.

"It is of course an irony that the very thing she was doing to earn a living when the defendant first met her is the very thing that would drive him to despair," Altman told the jury.

The court heard Li was an "ambitious young woman" who had studied in Japan before moving to Ireland.

She found work in a nightclub in Cork, Ireland, so she could send money home to Dalian in Liaoning province. At the club she met Ekaireb, who was in the city on a business trip.

He frequently travelled to see her before bringing her to London in June 2006, around the time she fell pregnant. A month later the couple travelled to China and were married in front of Li's family. Back in England in October, they married officially.

Within days police were called to an incident in which Ekaireb had dragged Li from his car and thrown her to the ground, the court heard. Li told police they argued over her lap dancing. Her father-in-law persuaded her to withdraw her claims, but just three weeks later, Li - then 22 weeks pregnant - vanished.

Ekaireb did not contact police nor report his wife missing, and for five years he failed to tell police about bank statements "proving" she was alive because he did not like the detective in charge of the investigation.

On the day Li disappeared, he spent the night at a nightclub in London's West End and the next day he arranged for their luxury flat to be redecorated, professionally cleaned and re-carpeted.

Ekaireb claims his wife "simply packed her bags, took most of her belongings, and left him for a better life".

The court heard that after her disappearance, Li did not touch her bank accounts, use her phone or get in touch with relatives overseas, despite being very close to them.

When she did not contact family after Lunar New Year 2007, she was reported missing. Despite extensive searches in Britain, Ireland, China and Japan, Scotland Yard detectives found no trace of her.

Altman said Li's principal ambition had been to marry a wealthy man who could look after her and her extended family.

"In this defendant she found a man who was a wealthy property owner and jeweller. However, on October 23, 2006, over seven years ago, she vanished from the home she shared with this man, never to be seen or heard from again by anyone. The prosecution say that is because she is dead, killed by her husband.

"Not only has she not been seen or heard from, but no body has ever been recovered," he added.

Ekaireb denies murder. The trial continues.