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Yoga ball murder case

Alibi and ‘nerd mind’ prove Malaysian professor in Hong Kong yoga ball murder trial is innocent, lawyer tells jury

Accused Khaw Kim Sun had suggested his wife got caught up in teenage daughter Lily’s suicide – but defence lawyer said it could all have been an accident

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 11:15pm

The alibi and “nerd mind” of a Malaysian professor accused of murdering his wife and daughter with a gas-filled yoga ball proved he was innocent, his lawyer told Hong Kong’s High Court on Friday in his closing speech.

As the three-week trial neared its end, defence counsel Gerard McCoy SC also appealed for the jury’s understanding on what had happened to a “strange family” while offering a new defence to the one the accused, Khaw Kim Sun, 53, had previously suggested.

Anaesthesiologist Khaw had claimed his wife Wong Siew Fing, 47, got caught up in his teenage daughter Lily Khaw Li Ling’s suicide, both perishing in their car on May 22, 2015.

But McCoy told the jury on Friday the deaths were an accident.

McCoy attacked the prosecution’s case as being weak, relying solely on circumstantial evidence. “I urge you to return a verdict of not guilty,” he told the nine jurors.

Khaw, an associate professor at Chinese University, had denied two counts of murder.

Prosecutors said Khaw, who was having an affair with his student, Shara Lee, placed a yoga ball, leaking carbon monoxide, in the back of his wife and daughter’s Mini Cooper, poisoning them.

However, McCoy said the evidence supported Khaw’s alibi.

Yoga ball murder trial: teenager never spoke of suicide, friend says

He said it would require the ball to have been placed in the car immediately before Wong drove off at 2.18pm for them to be poisoned. By that time, he said, Khaw was “teaching 250 students.”

The court previously heard Khaw was attending a seminar.

McCoy also hit back at the prosecutors’ suggestion that it was a planned murder. He said Wong usually played badminton on a Friday morning – meaning that planting the yoga ball would not be possible. She just happened to cancel the weekly activity on the day she died.

“How on earth would the defendant know … she would not be playing badminton?” McCoy asked, noting Khaw’s lack of communication with his estranged wife.

The court heard that Khaw admitted to police he brought the gas home – to kill rats, he said – and suggested that things might have gone wrong when Lily used it to commit suicide.

His client might be “morally responsible” for bringing the gas home, the barrister said. But there was “a huge difference” from acting foolishly to being a “person who intentionally killed his wife and daughter”.

He offered another explanation other than Lily’s suicide. He said Lily, 16, who was scared of bugs, might have used the gas to kill insects in the car without knowing the lethal consequences.

“It was an accident,” he said.

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He also invited the jury to consider the case’s special features.

“This is a very strange case. This is a very strange family,” he told the jurors, who had heard about Khaw’s high academic expectations for his children and his poor relationship with Wong.

One expert told the court it was “crazy” to carry carbon monoxide, a lethal gas if inhaled sufficiently, in a yoga ball. McCoy said it might sound so to the jurors, but Khaw, who excelled in his field, reasoned differently.

“That is a nerd mind,” he said, adding that although Khaw might lack empathy sometimes, he knew what he was doing.

Khaw would have to live with his loss for the rest of his life, he said.

Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling is expected to direct the jury on Tuesday.