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Yoga ball murder case

Professor’s rabbit experiment ‘not useful’, yoga ball murder trial hears, while university department head says he would not have approved proposal

Malaysian professor Khaw Kim Sun introduced carbon monoxide into rabbit’s bloodstream but in most cases humans inhale the gas, High Court hears

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 10:55pm

A professor’s experiment that prosecutors have claimed was just a ruse to get deadly gas to kill his wife and daughter with a toxic yoga ball offered no value to humans, scientists said on Monday.

Haematologist Kwong Yok-lam said the experiment Khaw Kim Sun, 53, performed on a rabbit looked at areas that had already been explored, while Gavin Joynt, an intensive care specialist who chairs the department at Chinese University where Khaw worked, said the experiment would not transfer to humans.

Both testified at the High Court, where Khaw, a Malaysian national, has denied two counts of murder after his wife Wong Siew Fing, 47, and daughter, Lily Khaw Li Ling, 16, were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. Prosecutors argue their death was caused by a yoga ball filled with carbon monoxide Khaw put in the boot.

Kwong, chief of the haematology and oncology department at the University of Hong Kong, said Khaw’s experiment was “not very useful” in clinical terms.

The court heard two sessions of the experiment, which were carried out days before Wong and her daughter’s death on May 22, 2015, involved drawing blood from a rabbit, mixing samples with carbon monoxide, and reintroducing it into the animal.

In the later stage of the experiment, Khaw planned to use oxygen of 60 per cent concentration to see whether it would improve the rabbit’s situation.

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Kwong said he did not see why such concentration was used, as doctors are required to use 100 per cent oxygen to cure patients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. He added the time it took to cure such patients with pure oxygen had been known to the field for about 20 years.

He also criticised the methodology, which he said was “dubious” and unable to collect reliable data. He said while humans in most cases inhaled carbon monoxide, Khaw had introduced the gas into the rabbit’s bloodstream.

Joynt, whose duty included approving the research, said that although he chaired Khaw’s department, he had not had an opportunity to consider the professor’s work.

When shown a preliminary version of the proposal in court on Monday, he said he would have sent it back either for a major revision or told him not to proceed.

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“I have to stress, in its current form I cannot see how this would advance our understanding of carbon monoxide poisoning or [its] treatment,” Joynt said.

The car Khaw’s wife and daughter were found in was parked at the Sai O Village bus stop in Ma On Shan. They were taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, where Khaw also worked, and pronounced dead.

The trial continues before Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling on Tuesday.