Yoga ball murder trial: Malaysian professor asked police to leave lover out of case, Hong Kong court hears
Video interview played for jury shows defendant claiming she did not have a ‘full role’ in the experiments that prosecutors said were set up as a ruse
A Malaysian professor accused of murdering his wife and daughter with a gas-filled yoga ball urged police not to get his lover involved in their investigation, a Hong Kong court heard on Wednesday.
Khaw Kim Sun, 53, who denied two counts of murder, is standing trial at the High Court for killing his wife Wong Siew Fing, 47, and daughter, Lily Khaw Li Ling, 16, on May 22, 2015, with carbon monoxide. Prosecutors said he had set up an experiment as a ruse to buy the gas.
The murder trial heard that his lover, Shara Lee – who was Khaw’s student as well as his children’s Chinese-language tutor – had taken part in the experiments.
On Wednesday, however, the court heard that in 2016 when police arrested Khaw, he played down his lover’s role in the incidents.
“I can vouch that she has got nothing to do with this investigation or this incident,” the associate professor at Chinese University said in a video interview with police played for the jury on Wednesday.
Prosecutors have said that Khaw, also a specialist in anaesthesiology at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, conducted two experiments on rabbits as a pretext to acquire the carbon monoxide days before he allegedly murdered his wife and daughter.
Dick Chow Ho-kiu, an assistant professor who helped Khaw carry out the experiments, earlier testified that Lee had arrived and stayed briefly towards the end of the tests. One took place on May 20, two days before the pair’s death, when Chow saw Khaw fill up two yoga balls with carbon monoxide.
In the video interview, Khaw initially said Lee had “never been involved in, nor … been to the laboratory”.
But when the detective told him she was indeed present, Khaw said it had “been a long time” since the incident.
“Even if she was there, she was only there for like 10, 15 minutes,” the professor added.
Khaw later said in the interview Lee did not have a “full role” in the experiment in that she was only involved in data analysis and plotting graphs.
“I was very distressed that you locked her up in the police station,” he said, revealing for the first time that police had detained her.
Police said Lee called Khaw four times the night before the death of his wife and daughter. Khaw said the phone calls involved a tennis session he attended earlier that day.
Khaw is arguing that he brought the ball back to his three-storey village house in Sai Kung to kill rats, but his daughter Lily, the only family member who knew about it, used the ball to commit suicide.
Malaysian professor told police he thought daughter had committed suicide when they came to arrest him
He also told officers during the interview that he did not alert other family members about the potential danger because he thought the ball was strong enough to contain the gas, and there was a detector on it to identify leakage.
He said even if the carbon monoxide leaked, the gas would harmlessly dissipate into the large room where the ball was placed.
Khaw said upon reflecting on events leading up to the “unfortunate incident”, he realised his daughter had been growing increasingly impulsive and intolerant.
His wife had also become more temperamental at one point, he said, after joining an organisation to boost her confidence. Khaw said the group turned out to be a “cult”. That took a toll on the family’s harmony, according to him.
Khaw said his marriage began to sour because he had ambitions for his children, while his wife did not have such high expectations.
He said he never considered marrying Lee after his wife’s death because he felt marriage was “just a piece of paper” and Lee never asked to be wed.
Khaw testified that he met Lee, an assistant professor at Polytechnic University, around 2010. His eldest daughter, Khaw May-ling, testified earlier that she began tutoring them between 2003 and 2004.
The defendant said he and Lee began to date in 2013 after his relationship with his wife deteriorated.
Prosecutors have said they believed Khaw had orchestrated a “deliberate and calculated” plot in ordering carbon monoxide through his university office and claiming it was for research purposes.
They contend he filled the yoga ball with the toxic gas before unplugging it and leaving it inside his wife’s Mini Cooper. The ball was later discovered inside the car, deflated, along with the bodies of Wong and Lily Khaw, at the Sai O Village bus stop in Ma On Shan.
The trial continues before Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling.