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Hong Kong courts

Suspected rapist who hanged himself with computer cable in police station was unsupervised, inquest hears

  • Coroner’s Court hears that officer assigned to patrol the cells where 48-year-old suspect was being held had not carried out the proper checks
  • Security footage shows suspect trying to get hold of the cable for half an hour
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 8:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2018, 9:54pm

A rape suspect had made repeated attempts to get hold of a computer cable at a police station hours before he hanged himself with one, surveillance footage played at an inquest on Thursday showed.

But Lam Wing-chun’s efforts – which lasted for at least half an hour – went unnoticed even though he was supposed to be under police supervision at Sau Mau Ping Police Station on May 10, the day before he died, the Coroner’s Court heard.

The second day of the inquest, which aims to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding Lam’s death, also found that a police officer assigned to check on him had allegedly missed his regular patrols of the detention rooms, although they were not where Lam was being held at the time.

“Not answering”, Constable Chan Ho-man told Coroner Ko Wai-hung, when he was asked why a log book showed he had done a patrol of the station’s detention cells, despite surveillance footage suggesting otherwise.

The deceased Lam, 48, was arrested on May 10 in connection with a rape and robbery case following a complaint by a victim who alleged that Lam forced himself on her on May 8 near Kowloon Bay MTR Station.

Lam was held at Sau Mau Ping Police Station that night pending questioning. But in the morning of May 11, police found he had hanged himself with a computer cable in one of the station’s detention cells.

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On Thursday, footage of Lam, when he was kept in a temporary detention room between 5.32pm and 6.10pm, was played during the inquest.

The footage showed that Lam, who delivered liquefied petroleum gas for living, extended his arms and legs outside the cell gate to reach a cable connected to a computer nearby.

At one point, he managed to pull part of the cable into the cell, though the clip ended without showing whether he actually pulled it away.

Chan, the constable who was supposed to be watching the temporary detention room, testified on Thursday that during that period of time, he went away twice for other duties. And for the time he was present, “I don’t remember [what happened]”, he said.

The police officer said he went upstairs to check another detention room and then headed to the bathroom at 5.32pm, and was not sure when he returned. He then went away again shortly before 6pm to retrieve the national and Hong Kong flags the station raised every morning.

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He insisted that, for both of the occasions he was away, he instructed a female colleague to take over.

But Coroner Ko Wai-hung told him that CCTV footage showed he was never seen examining the detention rooms, despite him claiming to do so and two records in the log book. He cautioned the officer that he might be held criminally liable for answering those questions falsely.

Chan initially responded by saying that he did go up to the cells, but started experiencing a stomach ache after walking halfway, so the footage did not catch up.

But he later refused to answer further and declined to elaborate on the log book records after seeking an adjournment to see his lawyer who had been attending court. However, he did concede that he sometimes allowed others to log in for him because he had a habit of “washing his hands” after checking the detention rooms.

He said that on the day he sat at a spot where he could view the temporary detention room the deceased was in.

The court also heard that, according to the Police General Orders, Chan was only required to check the detention rooms every 25 minutes, but not the temporary detention room. But the constable recorded his checks on the temporary ones in the log book anyway, the court heard.

The inquest continues on Friday.