Hong Kong police

Hong Kong police and force watchdog accused of negligence in handling of young girl’s death

Mother of child who died when she fell from the 10th floor of a building says police failed to handle the case correctly

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 8:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 11:45am

The Independent Police Complaints Council and Hong Kong police have been accused of negligence and dereliction of duty in their handling of the death of a four-year-old girl, who fell from her 10th floor home six years ago.

On Wednesday, James To Kun-sun, a democrat legislator assisting the victim’s mother, called on the council to reinvestigate the case, which he also promised to bring to the attention of the commissioner of police again.

“The police didn’t really conduct any investigation. They treated it as if it was the death of a dog or a cat,” Chen Xuping, mother of the deceased, said in tears.

Mother disputes account of girl’s fatal fall from kitchen window

At about 5pm on December 7 in 2011, Chen found the door to her home unlocked and later her daughter Ngai Lok-ching lying in a pool of blood on a concrete terrace on the first floor.

It was merely 15 minutes after Chen left home to go to a supermarket in her neighbourhood of Wah Kwai Estate, Aberdeen. Chen locked the main door from the outside after she confirmed that Ngai was asleep.

Police officers from the Western District Crime Unit told the mother that they conducted a “scientific simulation” of her daughter’s last movements. Police believed that the four-year-old girl, who was 101cm tall and weighed 32kg, fell from a window in the kitchen by herself. The window was at least 115cm from the floor and opened with a width of less than 30cm.

Chen, 47, refuted the police’s conclusion as “unreasonable” and “groundless”.

The officer assigned to examine the scene said although a short stool was found under the open window, it was not enough to help Ngai climb onto the window sill as the stool was at a height of between 15cm and 18cm.

Chen added that there were lots of items under the window, including at least two dustbins, one cardboard box of rice and two boxes of canned drinks. She doubted that Ngai could have made space for the stool by removing all the heavy items within such a short period by herself.

Chen said although she was the first to make a report, the police officers did not take her witness account until five days later, when she went to the police station and asked to be recorded.

At the Coroner’s Court hearings in December 2012, the first policeman who arrived at the scene admitted that he opened the window wider.

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A superintendent leading the investigation admitted that no DNA samples or fingerprints were collected because a detective decided not to do so, as the kitchen looked greasy to him.

A forensic scientist said he found three fibres under Ngai’s nails and gave them to the police for further investigation. However, the police said “nothing of significance was found” by the scientist in their report to the court.

In December 2013, the coroner suggested that the commissioner of police carry out a “more thorough and comprehensive” investigation as all five jurors agreed that Ngai’s death was suspicious.

In April 2014, when To wrote to the commissioner for an update , the police chief said that no further review was possible if To could not “specifically point out which part in the evidence collection process was problematic”.

In July 2014, To sent the commissioner a list of 30 doubts and problems but the police replied that they had found nothing new.

Meanwhile, Chen lodged a formal complaint to the Complaints Against Police Office.

It took the office two years and eight months to conclude that although the police officer who first went to Chen’s home “disrupted the scene”, he was not to blame because the disruption was “inevitable” and was reported afterwards.

In July, Chen was further disappointed as the Independent Police Complaints Council dismissed her complaints as “not fully substantiated”.

The council said the detective tried to collect fingerprints but failed to do so given the unfavourable environment, and the three fibres brought no clues because there was no sample to make a comparison.

“I am terrified by the police’s attitude. I felt helpless in pursuit of truth and justice,” Chen said.

To said the police must be more careful and responsible, otherwise more deaths might remain mysteries.