ACCUSED mass-murderer Charles Ng, who has spent nearly 10 years awaiting trial, could face an indefinite delay before he gets a hearing. His complicated case has fallen foul of the unexpected bankruptcy of Orange County, one of California's wealthiest areas, where he is being held. With the county unable to pay teachers and other essential workers, the public defenders department, which represents Ng, cannot afford the millions of dollars the case is likely to cost. The case has 600 potential witnesses, from Hong Kong, Canada, Japan, and Britain as well as the United States. Ng, 34, formerly of Hong Kong, is charged with 12 counts of murder in a grisly series of sex and torture slayings. He has been the subject of years of wrangling over where his trial should take place. He was arrested in Canada, where he fled after his alleged partner, Leonard Lake, committed suicide and before the bodies were found. He spent six years fighting extradition. The hearing was moved from rural Calaveras County in Northern California, where the killings took place, to Orange County, between Los Angeles and San Diego, last year when a judge ruled he could not get a fair trial because of publicity. Since then he has been trying to have the case moved again, to San Francisco. The delays are frustrating relatives of the murder victims. Lola Stapley, whose son Robin was among the victims found dismembered and burned in the back yard of a remote mountain cabin, said: 'What's wrong with the justice system? It's the same reaction I've had for the last 10 years - nothing is happening.' Ng is not available for interview, and a judge has imposed a gag order on lawyers involved in the case. But Orange County chief Deputy Public Defender Carl Holmes explained: 'A motion was made to move the case away from Orange County as a result of the bankruptcy. 'One of the primary reasons is that the bankruptcy would delay the case interminably, the way things currently look. 'The limitations of funds have essentially made it impossible for us to prepare his case. The judge will rule on February 24 if he will send it back to Calaveras County or order it to San Francisco. 'The actual cost of the defence is confidential but it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.' Ironically, sparsely-populated Calaveras County, which does not have a jail secure enough for a high-risk prisoner like Ng, could afford to foot the bill more easily because it would be eligible for a refund from the state. 'On the other hand, Calaveras County moved the case because of publicity,' said Mr Holmes. Ng, educated at an English public school, was accused in 1985 after Lake swallowed a cyanide pill when he was arrested for shoplifting, and police investigating his background uncovered charred human remains on a remote ranch in the northern Californian village of Wilseyville. Police found a torture chamber on the ranch, along with horrific videotapes showing women being sexually tortured. Mr Holmes said Ng, who faces the gas chamber if he is convicted, is concerned about the uncertainty.