JAPANESE historian Hirofumi Hayashi has shed new light on 919 Japanese tried as war criminals by the British Army in Southeast Asian countries including Hong Kong, after World War II. After studying documents in British archives, Mr Hayashi said 279 had been sentenced to death, 55 given life prison terms and 107 acquitted. The Sunday Morning Post's examination of Hong Kong military documents held at Kew, West London, revealed at least 117 Japanese were tried and some executed in a series of war crimes trials held in Hong Kong after liberation. The trials ran from May 1946 until March 1949, and Japanese prisoners found guilty of atrocities were hanged at Stanley Prison. Thousands of documents at the British Public Records Office at Kew reveal accounts of military trials held across the territory. A military defence lawyer was assigned to each accused; many cases were hard-fought and some were acquitted. 'I don't know why, but it's really been overlooked, the trials of Japanese war criminals in Hong Kong,' said historian Philip Bruce. THE SERGEANT SERGEANT Major Kiichiro Yamada - known as the Tiger of the New Territories for his brutal torturing to death of local people - was hanged at 7 am at Stanley Prison on October 10, 1946. He was a master of one of the worst tortures used by the occupying Japanese, the water torture, in which a hose was placed in a prisoner's mouth and the water turned on. He was based at the Japanese Gendarmerie at Tai Po, and had a vicious reputation. When he was tried for the torture and murder of Hong Kong residents Cheng Po, Lam Tin-kam and Lam Shui-ki, he told the court he was on 'friendly terms' with the three men and had arrested them to 'scold them' for getting themselves into trouble. The men were arrested after a boy, allegedly carrying dispatches between guerilla resistance groups, was discovered. Yamada was identified by witnesses who had shared cells with the dying men. He was often assisted by two Chinese, a notorious local collaborator policeman and an interpreter. Yamada offered alibis: he was away celebrating a Japanese festival on the day one man died; he was digging defensive ditches on the next occasion and finally said: 'The inhabitants of Nam Wah Po village deliberately forged a massive construction of evidence against me.' Witnesses described tortures received at the hands of Yamada, including having spikes driven up their nails and beatings. Yamada insisted none of his staff had used torture. THE INTERPRETER A JAPANESE interpreter described as 'one of the most notorious of the Hong Kong war criminals' escaped the death sentence but was jailed for 15 years after liberation. Niimori Genichiro was involved in the notorious battening-down of hatches on the sinking Lisbon Maru. This was while 400 sick and injured prisoners-of-war lay within. The ship had been transporting British prisoners of war from the Shamshuipo internment camp to China and Japan when it was torpedoed. Most of the Japanese troops on board apparently fled the vessel. The British then managed to cut their way out through the hold. The first out were shot dead by a few remaining guards. Others leapt into the sea and struck out for islands eight kilometres away. Genichiro was also accused of beating sick and injured prisoners as they lay in their beds at Bowen Road hospital. The long list of charges included beating internees at Shamshuipo camp and stealing British and Australian Red Cross parcels from the docks. Genichiro and a colleague opened a shop in Nathan Road where they sold the parcels' contents to Japanese. THE OFFICER THREE villages on Lantau became the site of torture and killings which led to the trial and execution of three Japanese war criminals in 1946. The incidents occurred after a small band of local guerillas attacked Japanese troops at Chung Hau, Silvermine Bay, on August 19, 1945. The Japanese took revenge on the villages, burning, looting, shooting several people on the spot and arresting 300. Court records reveal those arrested were taken to the beach near Japanese headquarters, where several were tied to stakes and beaten. Lieutenant Kishi Yasuo, Lieutenant Matsumato Chozabwo and Sergeant Major Uchida Hiroshi were later executed for what followed. On the first evening after the noon attack Yasuo beheaded village elders Tsang Sau and Lam Fook. Later that evening the three tortured more villagers, hanging them from poles while they were beaten. The beatings continued for up to a week, and four more men were beheaded. In his defence, Yasuo said rifles and ammunition had been found in a village, and that his superior officers had told him to use any measures in his own self-defence. He denied torture had been used and claimed three of those beheaded had confessed to being guerillas. Court records show some of the Lantau villagers who were summoned as witnesses feared that they were in trouble, and had to be repeatedly assured that they were not on trial. The case ran for a month, and three men were acquitted. Yasuo was hanged at Stanley Prison on July 30, 1946.