Body-in-cement murder case

Body-in-cement murder suspect planned to break into victim’s safe to steal HK$10 million, Hong Kong court hears

Keith Lau, one of three suspects, says in police interview co-accused Tsang Cheung-yan is group’s ‘boss’ and the one behind robbery plans

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 7:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 7:32am

One of three men accused of murdering an acquaintance and encasing his body in cement had suggested breaking into a safe belonging to the deceased to steal HK$10 million (US$1.3 million), a Hong Kong court heard on Wednesday.

Keith Lau, 23, one of the suspects, told police in an interview that his accomplice Tsang Cheung-yan, 28, made the suggestion after they allegedly murdered Cheung Man-li, 28, in their flat on March 4, 2016.

Lau’s account to authorities, which was presented to a seven-member jury at the High Court, also contradicted what Tsang had told police earlier.

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The older man had accused Lau of being the “mastermind” who planned to rob the victim, but Lau denied his role in the killing and accused Tsang of being the leader of a supposed robbery that turned fatal.

Lau said he was forced into the plot by Tsang and the third defendant, Cheung Sin-hang, 26.

He claimed they had said to him: “We are in the same boat ... If something went wrong ... you think we won’t go down together?” In fear, he decided to play along, Lau said.

All three have denied murdering Cheung Man-li, also known as Ah J, at a Tsuen Wan flat the men shared.

Prosecutors said someone had covered Ah J’s mouth with a pair of women’s underwear soaked in chloroform, before Tsang injected alcohol into the victim’s body. After Ah J’s death, the trio allegedly encased his body in a “concrete coffin” they had built by using wooden boards and cement.

They fled to Taiwan before they were sent back to the city and detained in April that year.

During his police interview, Lau told officers that after Ah J’s death, Tsang had instructed him to sell an Omega watch they found on the victim. Tsang earlier told police it was Lau who asked him to sell the timepiece.

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At one point, Lau said, Tsang also found the certificate of the watch and a key to Ah J’s home on the dead body. After using a derogatory term to refer to Ah J, who Tsang said had hid the items, he then told Lau that there was HK$10 million kept in a safe in the home of the deceased.

“[Let’s] go and take it when there is time,” Tsang said, according to Lau.

Tsang had also previously accused Lau of being behind the chloroform attack. On Wednesday, Lau said it was Cheung Sin-hang who pinned Ah J down and covered his mouth with cloth soaked in chloroform.

Lau said Tsang then injected the victim with alcohol four times – an act Tsang had earlier denied. Lau also said Tsang had bought the chloroform.

He added Tsang had always been the “boss” of the group, and had suggested robbing Ah J before the incident because his family was rich and he had an eight-digit savings figure.

Lau said they went to Kwun Tong a day before Ah J’s death to scout the area for their plan, but he then urged Tsang to give up the idea.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick Li Hon-leung on Thursday.