Victim's husband backs life sentences

THE husband of the pedestrian killed by an AK-47 gang said yesterday he opposed calls for the implementation of the death penalty to counter violent crime.

Taxi driver Mr Law Chung-wai, 38, doubted that introducing the death penalty would make Hongkong's streets safer.

''It probably would make things worse because it could lead to more hostages being held by gangs prepared to shoot their way out,'' he said.

''Personally, I prefer life imprisonment for serious crimes because being locked behind bars for the rest of one's life is far more painful.'' Ms Fung Wai-lin, 38, was shot dead during a gunbattle between robbers and police after a $3.3 million raid on a goldsmith shop in Nathan Road, Mongkok, on Wednesday.

A robber was also killed and a police officer wounded during the shootout which provoked calls from police staff associations for the restoration of capital punishment.

Mr Law had no complaints about the police handling of the chase and said his wife's death had been caused by a ''ruthless'' gang who had had no compunction about opening fire in a busy street.

Ms Fung, a nurse at the Pao Siu Loong Convalescent Home, Tai Po, was on her way to a regular medical check-up when she was shot in the head by the high-velocity bullet at the junction of Dundas Street and Nathan Road.

The police tactical unit officer who was hit in the leg during the gunbattle was in fair condition in Kwong Wah Hospital yesterday.

Ms Fung graduated from the nursing school of St Teresa Hospital and worked there for 10 years before switching to the Tai Po home for the elderly four years ago.

Mr Law said he was working on his taxi, parked at Tin Ma Court, Wong Tai Sin, when a colleague told him to take his time because many roads were jammed and closed because of a robbery in Mongkok.

''I asked him what had happened and he said one woman pedestrian had been shot and seriously injured in Dundas Street,'' he said.

''I was quite worried because my wife was supposed to be there at that time. After hearing the robbery on the radio at 2.30 pm I was 90 per cent sure the injured person was my wife.'' He was told his wife had been hurt by his radio taxi company which had received a call from her Tai Po colleagues.

Police investigators said yesterday they were almost certain the three-man gang had also robbed a Tse Sui Luen shop in Tuen Mun on Boxing Day.

Detective Superintendent Poon Jee-chung of West Kowloon regional crime headquarters said they would study the two raids.

''In that incident, three men armed with two AK-47 rifles and a pistol robbed the shop of $820,000 worth of merchandise. No shots were fired and no one was injured,'' he said.

Both land and marine officers are on full alert looking for the two men still at large.

''We are also anxious to locate a man and a woman who were briefly held hostage outside the goldsmith shop.'' They are urged to contact police on 761 2348 or 527 7177.

Detectives have not been able to establish the identity of the dead robber, thought to have been aged between 20 and 30.

While legislators yesterday called for new measures to stop weapons being brought over the border from China, the Secretary for Security, Mr Alistair Asprey, said there was no way to completely stop the influx of firearms even though Hongkong police had established good relations with their mainland counterparts.

''Given the prevalence of firearms in China and the very long border and the tremendous amount of traffic every day between Hongkong and China, I think it would be unrealistic to think that one can have a system that would never allow firearms in,'' he said.