Malaysian professor sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of Hong Kong yoga ball murders
Khaw Kim Sun, 53, has been convicted of killing wife and teenage daughter with deadly gas
A Malaysian professor was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday for killing his wife and daughter using a gas-filled yoga ball as his murder weapon in a “premeditated and calculated” plot to get his hands on properties the couple jointly owned.
After almost seven hours of deliberation at the High Court, a jury of five men and four women unanimously found Khaw Kim Sun, 53, guilty of murdering his wife, Wong Siew Fing, 47, and their second child, Lily Khaw Li Ling, 16, three years ago.
Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling stipulated the mandatory life sentence for murder, telling Khaw: “It is shocking that a highly educated and successful man would conjure up such a calculated method to get rid of his wife.”
The professor stood to inherit his wife’s share of several properties the couple held through a company, the judge said.
“There is only one sentence to pass,” she added.
Khaw’s three other children – the eldest in university and the other two still in secondary school – will now be without both their parents, with the professor being put behind bars.
On hearing the guilty verdicts, Khaw turned towards the children in the public gallery as they began to weep. He shook his head repeatedly when the judge began summarising the case.
None of the children, nor the aunt from their father’s side who accompanied them, took questions after the verdict. It is not known if Khaw will appeal his conviction.
Throughout the 21-day trial that riveted Hong Kong for the unusual use of a gas-leaking yoga-ball as the murder weapon, prosecutor Andrew Bruce SC portrayed the incident as a deliberate murder plot executed by Khaw amid a deteriorating relationship with his wife while he was having an affair with a student, Shara Lee.
Khaw, a specialist in anaesthesiology, put a leaking inflatable ball containing carbon monoxide in the boot of a yellow Mini Cooper driven by his wife on May 22, 2015, the prosecutor said.
Wong and Lily were later found unresponsive in the car parked at the Sai O Village bus stop, a four-minute drive from their home at Tai Tung Village in Ma On Shan.
They had suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and died after being rushed to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, where Khaw worked as a doctor.
To perfect the killings, Bruce said, the doctor went out of his way to set up an experiment as a cover to obtain the gas – a suggestion fiercely contested by Khaw’s lawyers during the highly technical trial that featured a long list of doctors and professors as both prosecution and defence witnesses.
But prosecutors could present no more than a circumstantial case, as no one witnessed who placed the yoga ball in the car and when.
During the trial, Khaw never disputed taking the dangerous gas home in a yoga ball but claimed he planned only to use it on rats that were infesting his home.
The professor suggested to police after his arrest that it was perhaps Lily who had used the gas-filled ball to commit suicide – taking her mother’s life as well – even though her friends described her in court as a teenage girl “full of life”.
Khaw’s lawyer, Gerard McCoy SC, offered an alternative version of events during his closing speech, saying Lily, who feared bugs, may have used the gas as a pesticide without appreciating its deadly nature.
During the trial, Khaw’s friends described him as a clever man and skilled anaesthesiologist with an “avant-garde” mind who had successfully contributed to the field of gynaecology.
But he was also a demanding father who failed to understand his children, according to his eldest daughter.
A spokesman for Prince of Wales Hospital said Khaw had been suspended as of September 12, 2017, as both a member of the teaching staff at Chinese University and a doctor at the hospital.
Assistant District Crime Commander Chan Yan, from the Sha Tin police district, said the verdict made clear that “justice has a long reach”.
Additional reporting by Jasmine Siu