Hong Kong father who killed his sons in murder-suicide 'saw his fortune disappear after inviting dishonest relative to run his business'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 September, 2015, 3:36pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 September, 2015, 3:45pm

A Hong Kong primary school is in mourning today after one of its students, an eight-year-old boy, was found dead alongside his brother and father in a tragic murder-suicide in Ma On Shan, as new details emerged about the family's problems.

Chan Sze-ho’s body, along with those of his 52-year-old father Chan Chun-hing and 10-year-old brother Sze-ming, were found on Saturday afternoon inside their 18th-floor apartment, filled with charcoal smoke and the doors and windows sealed with tape.

A police chief inspector said the father, who was divorced, may have sought to die with his two sons over family problems.

The father’s journal found at the scene gave disturbing details of the family’s last days, including how Sze-ho ingested one-third of a pack of rat poison last month and survived.

Read more: Classmates of Hong Kong boy, 8, killed by father in murder-suicide urged to speak up about problems as school mourns

Details of the father emerged in an interview given by a brother to Apple Daily.

The brother said Chan had a good career after finishing his university education in computer science and commerce in Toronto.

“[Studying at an overseas university] was very great in those days. He then had a smooth path in building up his career and wealth,” said the brother, who added that Chan had an electronics factory on the mainland employing 200 employees at its peak.

But the father, who at that time had amassed tens of millions of dollars, lost much of it after inviting a dishonest relative to help take care of his factory when his eldest son, who was autistic, was born.

The business finally collapsed and Chan suffered a stroke.

His relationship with his wife, who he met on the mainland, also soured and they divorced.

The brother, who lives nearby, blamed himself for failing to check what had happened to his brother and two sons. 

Meanwhile, Ng Clan’s Association Tai Pak Memorial School, where Sze-ho studied and which is close to the Chans’ home, said in a statement today that teachers and students were “extremely sad and sorrowful”, adding that students would be informed of the tragic news on Monday.

The school said its teachers, counsellors and an educational psychologist would be ready to provide counselling to students if necessary, starting tomorrow.

It would also issue letters to parents on Monday asking them to share if their children were experiencing emotional distress so that help and support could be provided as early as possible.

The school said they would not make any assumptions or further comments at this stage as the case was under investigation.

Sze-ho and his older brother Sze-ming – who had autism and attended the special-education Sha Tin Public School – failed to show up at the start of classes on September 1, and their father could not be contacted. The school alerted their aunt, Chan’s elder sister, and she visited the flat at Kam Nga House, Kam Ying Court, several days ago but no one answered the door.

The aunt came back to the flat with the children’s mother and a locksmith on Saturday, only to make the grim discovery.

Police said the medical examiner believed the two children and their father had been dead for several days – even up to two weeks. A preliminary investigation found that Sze-ming died about two weeks ago and his younger brother and father stayed with the body for about five to six days.

The Sha Tin Public School could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Autism Hong Kong, a group that promotes wider awareness and acceptance of the condition, criticised a lack of support to families dealing with the disorder, whose range of symptoms include difficulties with social interactions or communication.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government had not received any request for assistance from the Chan family prior to the tragedy.

“The family had not contacted the Social Welfare Department before, therefore it was hard for us to do preventive work,” said Cheung, adding that families of autism sufferers should seek assistance if they face problems.

He said the department would contact the Chans’ relatives to provide counselling or help with funeral expenses if necessary.

Autism Hong Kong urged the government to establish autism community support teams in the 16 district support centres for persons with disabilities in the city, and identify high-risk families with autistic children.