Ex-TV star gets life for tea-house murder

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2007, 12:00am

Death penalty for contract killer as gang sentenced over businessman's killing

Hong Kong actor-turned-businessman Yeung Ka-on has been jailed for life by a Shenzhen court for his role in the execution-style murder of Hong Kong businessman Harry Lam Hon-lit in 2002.

Mainland contract killer Yang Wen, 30, who shot Lam dead at point-blank range as he ate breakfast in the Luk Yu Tea House in Stanley Street, Central, received the death sentence yesterday morning at Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court.

Lam, 54, a director of Digger Holdings and an investor in the Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, was killed on November 30, 2002. His family members were not in court yesterday.

Yeung appeared weak and nervous early in the sentence hearing, wringing his hands and unsteady on his feet. Making an allowance for this, a judge had a chair and a cup of water provided for him, while all the other defendants remained standing.

But the former actor, popular among those who grew up in the golden era of Hong Kong television in the late 1970s and early 1980s, looked relatively calm when the sentences were read out. Other defendants appeared numb.

Hong Kong triad boss Lau Yat-yin, 48, was sentenced to life for paying Hong Kong resident Tse Bing to hire killers. Tse also received a life term for hiring the killers.

Former PLA soldier Zhang Zhixin, 34, was sentenced to 13 years in jail for planning the murder with Yang. Wu Weiwu, 31, a Hunan native, received a jail term of three years for arranging a hideout for Zhang and Yang but he was released yesterday after having already spent that time in custody. Hong Kong residents Ho Ho-fu and Tsui Ming-yeung - both employees of Yeung - were acquitted and released.

A source said Yeung could have received the death sentence but for minor flaws in the evidence against him. The judge also took into account that Hong Kong had no capital punishment, the source said. 'There's a lack of third-party statements against Yeung - only Lau Yat-yin accused him of being the mastermind,' the source said.

Most of the defendants, including Yeung and Yang, have indicated they will appeal to the Guangdong Higher People's Court.

They have 10 days to decide whether to do so.

Security was tight at the court in Futian district, with police holding machine guns guarding the entrance.

Yang, a Hunan native, was known as an excellent shot when he served in the People's Liberation Army in the 1990s. The court heard how the killer held Lam by the neck from behind and fired a shot into his head. He then calmly walked out of the tea house, leaving patrons dumbfounded.

Yang pleaded guilty to murder in the trial last October and asked the court for the death penalty, although he indicated yesterday that he would appeal.

Yeung pleaded innocent last October, saying he was only passing on information for a Taiwanese triad boss named Chen Chun-chieh, also known as 'Brother Pau'.

The court found that Yeung masterminded the killing and instructed Lau to plan it. Lau offered to pay Hong Kong resident Tse HK$2 million for the job, although Tse ended up collecting about HK$1.1 million in Macau.

Tse then used HK$400,000 to hire Zhang and Yang and arranged for them to come to Hong Kong, the court found.

Yang ended up getting HK$160,000 for executing the plan.

Wu said after his release that the punishments were not fair.

'The mastermind gets life but the executioner below him gets death,' he said.