Up to six of the seven accused once offered to plead guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter, but prosecutors declined the offer. Negotiations on the issue took up the first two of the 50 days set down for the trial last October but proved fruitless. Prosecutors pressed on with the murder charges and called 35 witnesses in an effort to prove that the abode seekers were guilty of murder and arson. They secured murder convictions against only one of the accused but all were convicted of the arson charge. Murder is the unlawful killing of a person with intent to cause death or grievous bodily harm, while manslaughter is, in this case, unlawful killing minus the intention. In most cases, murder carries automatic life imprisonment. The penalty for manslaughter varies, though the maximum is also life behind bars. Before the verdict, a senior prosecutor declined to discuss details of the plea bargain but said up to six of the accused men were at one stage prepared to admit manslaughter. He would not say why the offer was not accepted. A source close to the accused men said two of them had actually signed a document to confirm their readiness to plead guilty to manslaughter. However, any hope of agreement was dashed when prosecutors insisted on them testifying against whoever remained on trial, the source said, adding that such a condition was 'totally unacceptable'. Fifteen other abode seekers will go on trial on April 8 accused of one charge of manslaughter over Leung's death, and arson. Why prosecutors wanted some of the accused charged with murder and others with manslaughter was the source of much discussion during the trial. Before he died as a result of the burns he received during the fire in Immigration Tower, abode seeker Lam Siu-sing was named as a co-defendant on charges of wounding with intent involving senior immigration officer Leung Kam-kwong, who also died from burns received in the Immigration Tower fire, and immigration officer Choi To. 'At that stage, the prosecution must have thought if Lam survived and Leung died, Lam would be charged with his murder,' defence counsel Niall Stirling said in his closing remarks last Thursday. Lam, who died of his injuries in hospital on August 11, 2000, was subsequently named as a victim of the alleged murder plot. The prosecution case, Mr Stirling said, was 'confused, fundamentally flawed, misconceived, muddled and misleading'. Directing the jury on Friday morning, Mr Justice Thomas Gall told them not to speculate on the rationale behind the prosecution strategy. 'We don't know why. That's a matter for the Secretary of Justice . . . a matter entirely for her. I can't ask her and we can't speculate. Ignore it because speculation can be ignored,' he said.