M'sian Prof Loses Appeal Against Life Sentence For Murder Of Wife & Daughter In HK

The anaesthesiologist was sentenced for murdering his wife and 16-year-old daughter with a gas-filled yoga ball in 2015.

Cover image via Apple Daily/The New York Times & The Mirror

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A Malaysian university professor in Hong Kong, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife and daughter seven years ago, has lost a court appeal against the conviction

On Tuesday, 7 June, Khaw Kim Sun's request to revoke the judgement made in a 21-day trial in 2018, where a nine-member jury unanimously found him guilty of two counts of murder, was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Court of Appeal dismissed the defence's assertion that the deaths of 47-year-old Wong Siew Fing and 16-year-old Lily Khaw Li Ling may have been an accident.

The three judges rejected all 44 grounds of appeal the defence made, and held that Khaw had undergone "a thoroughly fair trial" in 2018 that provided "cogent and compelling evidence" to justify the jury's verdict.

Khaw (middle) being escorted by the police after his arrest in 2017.

Image via Apple Daily/The New York Times

Khaw, who turns 57 this year, was convicted for killing his wife and daughter after they were found unconscious in their yellow Mini Cooper on 22 May 2015 with a carbon monoxide-filled yoga ball in the boot of their car

The victims were found unresponsive in the car parked at a bus stop, a four-minute drive away from their family home, and died after being rushed to Prince of Wales Hospital.

Local news Apple Daily reported that an autopsy found the two had died from carbon monoxide poisoning despite the car having no leaking defects, which led police to suspect the inflatable ball in the back.

In the 2018 trial, the Hong Kong Court of First Instance heard how the professor of anaesthesiology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong had told colleagues that he was experimenting with carbon monoxide to exterminate rats at home, which was why he had brought home two gas-filled yoga balls.

Khaw was arrested four months after their deaths, and when questioned in court, he admitted to bringing home the carbon monoxide to kill vermin, but denied that he had put a ball in the car to kill his wife.

The victims had been found unconscious in their yellow Mini Cooper.

Image via The Mirror

Police found a deflated yoga ball in the boot.

Image via The Mirror

The motive of the murders remain unclear, but evidence in the trial revealed that Khaw had an unhappy marriage and an extramarital affair with one of his students

SCMP reported that although nobody witnessed who placed the yoga ball in the car, the jury in 2018 had accepted the prosecutor's submission that Khaw was the only one who could have done the deed by process of elimination.

Khaw, who pleaded not guilty, had claimed it was possible that his wife could have unknowingly placed the ball in the car herself as she went to yoga often, or his daughter, who was the only one who knew about the gas in the ball besides him, might have tried to kill herself.

On Tuesday, the defence counsel sought to exonerate Khaw by maintaining that the deaths were "an unfortunate accident" and that the ball could have been placed in the car for other purposes unknown.

Khaw's lawyers also made most of the 44 grounds of appeal against the approach taken by Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling in her instructions to the jury in 2018.

They contended that the judge had provided an unbalanced and inaccurate summary of the case, on top of numerous errors concerning the relevant legal principles.


Image via South China Morning Post

The Court of Appeal found no issue with the trial judge's direction, and instead lauded Barnes for her "thorough and meticulous" instructions that still effectively refuted many of the defence's complaints raised on Tuesday

In their ruling, justices Jeremy Poon Shiu Chor, Andrew Macrae, and Kevin Zervos found that Barnes had carefully summarised the facts surrounding the case in a fair and comprehensive manner, with clear and precise directions as to the conditions required for the jury to be satisfied with a guilty verdict.

"There was a strong case against the applicant that it was he who placed the yoga ball in the Mini," said the 139-page judgement.

"We are bound to say that there was little, if any, evidential basis to support a realistic possibility that the deaths of Madam Wong and Lily were an accident."

Serving his lifetime sentence to imprisonment, Khaw may still take his case to the Court of Final Appeal to change his conviction.

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