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Police escorting the suspect in 2019 at Po Lam Estate. Photo: Handout

Jobless Hong Kong man jailed for life in murder case after being found guilty of tying up girlfriend, beating her to death

  • Judge calls killing of nightclub waitress by boyfriend Law Wai-man ‘cold-blooded’, dismissing his defence of provocation
  • Case came to light in 2019 after police found body with more than 100 injuries in public flat during search for weapons
Brian Wong

A jobless man, 50, has been jailed for life in Hong Kong after being found guilty of tying up and beating his girlfriend to death in their public housing flat more than three years ago.

Law Wai-man was escorted back to the High Court on Friday to be sentenced over the “cold-blooded” killing of nightclub waitress Lau Lee-chi, 34, at the couple’s home in Tseung Kwan O on or around March 17, 2019. The victim’s body was found with more than 100 injuries.

A jury of three men and five women unanimously convicted the defendant of the charge after more than five hours of closed-door deliberation on Wednesday. A ninth juror was discharged before the verdict over Covid-related reasons.

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Passing sentence on Friday, Mr Justice Johnny Chan Jong-herng said Law’s defence that he was provoked into beating the woman could hardly stand, noting the defendant knew full well the deceased had psychiatric problems arising from drug abuse.

“The cruelty shown by the defendant was evident in his brutal beatings of the defenceless deceased over a long period of time,” Chan said. “The deceased was a close partner who cohabited with him. The defendant’s conduct in the case was cold-blooded and equivalent to biting the hand that fed him.”

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Law’s legal counsel made a written submission on mitigation before Friday’s ruling, despite the fact that murder carries a mandatory life sentence, in the hope he could receive favourable assessment when he becomes eligible to apply for parole.

But the judge said whether the unemployed man could turn the page or spend the remainder of his life behind bars depended on his own choices, pointing out that he had never sought genuine help to treat his drug addiction.

The court also asked if Law was willing to use the HK$34,000 (US$4,330) in cash police seized from the couple’s home, which was not presented as evidence in the trial, to compensate Lau’s family for emotional hurt.

Law declined, however, saying he needed the money to repay a debt owed to his elder brother.

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The trial earlier this month heard police discovered Lau’s body under a mattress inside the couple’s flat at Po Lam Estate on March 20, 2019, when officers were conducting a house search to investigate Law’s alleged possession of offensive weapons.

Medical findings revealed the waitress sustained 101 injuries to her head, torso and limbs, including fractures in the sternum and 14 ribs as well as extensive bruises on her heart and lungs.

A government forensic pathologist attributed Lau’s death to serious injuries to the lungs by blunt objects, adding her consumption of methamphetamine might have accelerated her demise.

Law told police he had bound his partner with a cloth beside a window after she began displaying hysterical behaviour two to three days before the killing.

The jobless man, who was being pursued by police at the time, said he had punched and kicked his girlfriend in the early hours of March 17, fearing her yelling would alert neighbours.

He said he slept on a sofa and woke up to find his partner lying unresponsive on the floor. He then hid her body in the bottom of a bunk bed and cleaned up the crime scene.

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The defendant offered to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds he had been prompted to fatally attack Lau while he was under the influence of drugs, but that was rejected by the prosecution.

Law had seven prior convictions, with the earliest dating back to 1987.

He was last handed a six-week suspended jail sentence in 2019 for criminal intimidation, but committed the present offence during the suspension period.

Chan on Friday ordered Law to serve the six weeks concurrent to his life sentence.

Law will appear in the District Court in March next year, where he is expected to plead guilty to charges of kidnapping and criminal intimidation related to another girlfriend.