Hong Kong police

Policeman did not check on suspected rapist after hearing snoring and verbal responses from cell, Hong Kong court told

  • Inquest hears officer skipped at least five patrols, just hours before the man was found dead in custody
  • Surveillance footage shows officer did not go near detention area, despite being required to patrol every 25 minutes
PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2018, 10:05pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 October, 2018, 4:04am

A policeman did not check on a Hong Kong rape suspect who later hanged himself in custody, telling an inquest on Friday he had heard snoring and verbal responses coming from the man’s direction.

The third day of the inquest into the death of Lam Wing-chun revealed that the officer, Tai Wai-hou, skipped at least five patrols to Lam’s cell just hours before he died at the Sau Mau Ping police station on the morning of May 11, 2017.

Tai’s senior sergeant, Yeung Kai-kwong, had missed three of his own patrols, the Coroner’s Court heard.

While there were records entered in the log book, surveillance footage showed on a few occasions Tai had not gone near the detention area where Lam was locked up, despite being required to patrol the cells every 25 minutes.

Suspected rapist who hanged himself in police station was unsupervised

Tai on Friday took to the witness box to explain that he had gone near enough, albeit in an area beyond CCTV coverage.

He testified that he had called out to Lam and other detainees by name. He said he had been satisfied they were safe after hearing responses.

But this assertion instantly drew a comment from Coroner Ko Wai-hung, who said: “One could still be responding if he was about to hang himself.”

The officer noted that at the time three detainees, including Lam, had snored and said “yes”.

So you can recognise a person’s snore, too?
Ko Wai-hung, coroner

But this elaboration prompted more queries from the coroner, who is charged with leading the five-juror inquest to ascertain the circumstances relating to Lam’s death.

“So you can recognise a person’s snore, too?” Ko asked.

Lam, 48, was arrested on May 10, 2017, after he allegedly raped and robbed a woman near exit B of the Kowloon Bay MTR station two days earlier.

He was last detained at Sau Mau Ping police station before he was found dead on the morning of May 11, in a detention room, hanged with a computer cable.

The court on Friday also heard how Tai on the same night failed during a search to find the cable Lam used to hang himself. The inquest further learned of a shower head having come off inside the suspect’s cell and of Tai not being aware of it.

Surveillance footage played in court on Friday appeared to have captured Lam successfully getting a cable from a computer outside his cell, without any police supervision, just after 12.30am that day.

This followed different footage from the previous day showing Lam making similar attempts to get a cable.

Tai, who was tasked with monitoring Lam’s cell after midnight, explained that he was not present when Lam tried to fetch the cable, likely because he had gone to check on other cells.

Rape suspect found hanged in cell ‘acted normally’ after arrest 

The officer moved Lam to another cell upstairs at about 2am. He recalled subjecting Lam to a search without using a metal detector, but did not find the cable on him.

However at 2.48am, the shower, fitted with a suicide-proof design, suddenly broke in Lam’s cell. But Tai and his colleague thought this had happened because of wear and tear.

“It suddenly came off when I was sleeping,” Lam had told the officer.

The inquest continues on Monday.