Two jobless men in Hong Kong have been sentenced to 10 years in jail for causing a woman’s death while snatching her HK$15,000 (US$1,912) gold necklace in broad daylight two years ago.
Repeat offenders Chan Lai-ming, 58, and Lo Kin-keung, 59, were on Thursday thrown behind bars again over the fatal robbery outside Cheung Sha Wan Wholesale Vegetable Market on May 24, 2020, which took place shortly after their release.
Explaining the sentences at the High Court on Thursday, Mr Justice Joseph Yau Chi-lap said the pair had taken a life and destroyed a family with their “cowardly attack” just so one of the assailants could repay debts with proceeds from selling the necklace.
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The defendants pleaded guilty last week to a joint count of manslaughter by way of an unlawful and dangerous act.
The court heard kitchen worker Lian Lifen, 55, was mugged by Chan when she was on her way to her job at around 10.20am, with Lo following them to provide backup for the act.
After the crime, Lian reported for work at Fairwood restaurant in Pacifica shopping centre in Cheung Sha Wan without telling anybody about the attack. She took the day off after feeling unwell.
Lian was sent to hospital shortly after noon, when her son realised her head was swollen and bleeding. He believed at the time his mother had been hit by an object falling from a height.
It was not until the son removed Lian’s accessories before the consultation that he noticed the necklace with a heart pendant, which he gave her as a birthday present the previous year, was missing.
Initial examinations revealed Lian had suffered a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain. She never recovered and died five days later.
CCTV footage did not capture the fatal blow, but autopsy findings showed Lian sustained a 9cm linear fracture on the back of her head, which was compatible with trauma inflicted by “a hard unyielding surface”.
Chan denied using any weapons against Lian in the mugging, while Lo claimed he did not witness the assault.
Chan told police he sold the necklace for HK$12,400 at a jewellery store in Kowloon Bay. He repaid the HK$10,000 incurred in debts from buying Ice from drug dealers, gave HK$2,000 to Lo as a reward and spent the remainder on food.
Chan and Lo have 27 and 36 previous convictions respectively, with their latest criminal records stemming from drug-related offences. They completed their last jail terms in early 2020.
In last week’s mitigation, Chan’s counsel Michael Arthur said the accused insisted he did not intend to wound his victim, but was sorry for Lian’s death resulting from his actions.
Lo’s counsel Joe Chan Wai-yin pleaded for leniency on the grounds that his client did not have physical contact with the victim and was extremely remorseful.
But Yau pointed out the duo shared a mutual understanding and agreement to commence the crime and were equally culpable.
“As rightly put by Mr Arthur, it was a cowardly attack on the deceased in an unsophisticated robbery,” Yau said.
“Madam Lian died an unsolicited death. The two defendants have not only taken away a life, but have also broken up a family causing much pain and grievances to the family members of the deceased.”
The judge knocked five years off a starting point of 15 years of imprisonment for the pair’s guilty plea.
Manslaughter is punishable by up to life imprisonment, with actual sentences ranging from a probation order to more than 20 years behind bars depending on the circumstances of the case.
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