Corpse was in fetal position and had deep cuts reaching heart and lung, Hong Kong body-in-cement trial hears
Traces of potentially fatal chemical found in liver of victim Cheung Man-li during autopsy, pathologist tells court
The body of a man allegedly murdered and buried in cement was in the fetal position and full of deep cuts when discovered, a Hong Kong court heard on Friday.
Testifying in the High Court, forensic pathologist Dr Poon Wai-ming said traces of a chemical similar to chloroform – which depresses the nervous system – were found in the liver of Cheung Man-li, 28, during a postmortem examination.
Some of the cuts on Cheung’s body were so deep they penetrated his heart and left lung. But Poon, who conducted the autopsy, said they may have been inflicted after death.
Prosecutors allege that after killing Ah J with chloroform, the trio buried him in a block of cement.
They later found the block was too heavy to remove from their home, Flat9D of the DAN6 industrial building, so they tried to retrieve the body from the cement without success, the court heard earlier. Prosecutors said the trio then tried to cut up the block.
They denied one count of murder, but pleaded guilty to preventing the lawful burial of Cheung’s body.
Poon told the court on Friday that he went to the flat on March 30, 2016, after the case came to light. At first, Poon said, he saw firefighters breaking the block, after which Cheung’s body was exposed.
“He was in what is called a fetal position. Basically, his body was curled up,” Poon said.
“The body was in a state of decomposition.”
Poon said Cheung’s face was covered with a pillow case and his head wrapped with two layers of dark plastic bags tied with plastic straps.
Cheung’s upper left arm was fractured, indicating that it might have been subject to blunt force or a heavy cut by a sharp weapon.
Dichloromethane was detected in Cheung’s liver. “It would depress the central nervous system,” Poon said, adding that it could be fatal.
He said multiple wounds were found on Cheung’s body. One went through his abdomen deep into his left lung. Others reached the heart. But Poon said he could not identify the cause of Cheung’s death because of the decomposed state of the body.
Although dichloromethane was found in his body, he could not conclude its effects on Cheung because it was a substance that would evaporate at room temperature.
The prosecutors also accused Tsang of injecting the victim with alcohol after the chloroform attack. Poon said that after watching a reconstruction video of the alleged crime he calculated that the amount of alcohol was far from sufficient to kill Cheung.
Under cross-examination, defence counsel Keith Oderberg, for Lau, suggested Poon had not cited all the possible causes of death in his report, including bleeding on the brain as a result of Cheung being dropped on the floor.
Poon agreed he had not, and said blood was found in Cheung’s brain. However, the amount would not constitute death, he said.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick Li Hon-leung on Monday.