Hong Kong courts

Alcoholic Hongkonger jailed for 4.5 years after fatal attack on park cleaner

Court hears 61-year-old attacker had a long history of mental illness and alcohol abuse

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 9:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 10:25am

An alcoholic who pushed and stamped a cleaner to death for allegedly not apologising after brushing his foot with a broom was jailed for four-and-a-half years by a Hong Kong court on Thursday.

The High Court heard the attack took place three hours after Ma Fat-man, a retiree with a history of alcohol-related problems, had a drink before his usual morning walk through Morse Park in Wong Tai Sin.

There he met Woo Kwok-kin, 61, and accused the cleaner of brushing his right foot with a broom. The cleaner reportedly walked away without apologising.

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Furious, Ma pushed the cleaner and stamped on his chest after the man fell to the ground. He also swore at Woo before walking to another park, where he took a nap, while the cleaner was left unable to move.

Investigators later learned from a passer-by, who witnessed the attack, that there had been no physical contact between the men before the sudden attack – and that the broom had never touched Ma.

Woo died about a month later on February 1 last year, of complications to a spinal cord injury in his neck.

An autopsy revealed that Woo may have had a condition known as ankylosing spondylitis, which heightens the risk of spinal cord fractures.

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Ma told officers upon arrest: “I only pushed him once and stepped on him with my foot once. How could I know that he was so vulnerable?”

On Thursday, the 61-year-old divorced father of two pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter, an offence punishable by life imprisonment.

Defence counsel John Marray noted in mitigation that his client had a long history of mental health problems dating back to 1994, with past diagnosis that included alcohol dependence syndrome, psychosis and borderline intelligence.

But Madam Justice Maggie Poon Man-kay countered that limited intelligence was not an excuse and observed that Ma’s offence was aggravated by the fact that he further stamped on Woo and simply walked away without helping the cleaner up.

The judge also noted that Ma “posed a danger to the public” when he had very little insight into his problems with drug compliance and in controlling his alcohol intake.

“Should he have been kept loose on the streets during all those years with problems like that?” she asked. “Imprisonment is the correct sentence.”