South Korean businessman accused of murdering wife and son dies in suspected Hong Kong jail suicide
Kim Min-ho discovered unconscious ‘with bed sheet around his neck’
A South Korean businessman accused of murdering his wife and six-year-old son at a luxury Hong Kong hotel in January committed suicide in prison on Monday.
A prison guard found Kim Min-ho unconscious at about 7.25am on Monday, inside his single-person cell at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre in Cheung Sha Wan.
“A bed sheet was found around his neck,” a government source said. He said Kim, who was still awaiting trial, had strangled himself with the knotted sheet using his hands.
Beside Kim was a note thanking and saying goodbye to his friends, the source added.
Kim, 43, was sent to nearby Caritas Medical Centre, where he was declared dead about an hour later.
The Correctional Services Department (CSD) confirmed an inmate had committed suicide in his cell. It did not reveal the name of the deceased.
According to the department, the man was found unconscious in bed in his cell and officers immediately called an ambulance and tried to resuscitate him. The case has been reported to police.
“An inquest will be held by the Coroner’s Court,” the department said.
Kim, CEO of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in South Korea, was accused of murdering his wife, Song Wha-jeong, 42, and son, Kim Tae-yun, on January 14 at the The Ritz-Carlton hotel – inside the tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre.
Song and her son were found dead in bed inside a luxury suite, and Kim was arrested.
The killing came to light after Kim called a friend in South Korea saying he had failed in business and was about to commit suicide with his family. The friend then alerted South Korean police, who notified the country’s consulate in Hong Kong.
When he made his first court appearance on January 16, Kim confirmed he understood two charges of murder against him. He was remanded at Lai Chi Kok pending his next court date on May 23.
CSD statistics showed the number of self-harm cases, including suicides, among prisoners was 99 in 2017, the highest since 2013.
Over the past decade, sources said, the department has introduced measures against inmate suicides, such as increasing the number of cell checks and bringing in sheets made of hard-to-tear material.
The Society for Community Organisation – a human rights advocacy group – said the Security Bureau should initiate an independent review into suicides and self-harm in all prisons and similar facilities.
The group also called on the bureau to set up an independent advisory panel to shape government policy.
“A checklist of questions screening people with a high suicide risk should be developed. The department should also indicate factors to be considered when singling out this high-risk group,” the organisation said. It added that risk and vulnerability assessments should be a continuous process, as the situation could change.
“Officers should be properly trained to assess risk and vulnerability and to monitor people at risk,” it said.
Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, vice-chairman of the Legislative Council’s security panel, said the department previously spent considerable effort studying how to prevent inmate suicides. That included exploring the use of tougher bed sheets and quilt material, and removing any elevated points that people could hang themselves from.
A CSD spokesman said the department put great emphasis on, and took all practical measures to prevent, self-harm by inmates, including evaluating each inmates’ self-harm risk early and monitoring it.
Additional reporting by Danny Mok