A 15-year-old girl found dead at sea in Hong Kong last September had packed her belongings at home and cleared her school locker the day before she disappeared, her classmate told an inquest on Thursday.
Student Chiu Kwan-yi testified at the Coroner’s Court about her experience with Chan Yin-lam on September 19, 2019, the last day she was seen alive before her body was discovered off the waters of Tseung Kwan O three days later.
Chan had a troubled past and had been sent to a juvenile facility six times since 2017. She was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, a condition marked by irritability and argumentative behaviour. But she enrolled in the Hong Kong Design Institute on her own initiative and began classes last September, reportedly enjoying campus life.
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Chiu, 18, said she first met Chan on September 16. Despite spending only four days together, they bonded over their shared experiences at juvenile homes.
While Chan, who had taken part in anti-government protests last year, appeared to be an ordinary, cheerful girl among her peers in the first three days, she exhibited abnormal behaviour the following day, the inquest heard.
Chan returned to school at 11am that morning and took a classmate’s schoolbag to use as a pillow to sleep on a classroom floor. She got up 10 minutes later after repeated urgings by the teacher and other classmates.
Explaining her lateness, Chan wrote to Chiu via messaging app WhatsApp, saying: “It’s so scary. I spent the whole night awake and packing stuff. Crazy.”
After her class ended at 1pm, Chan spent half an hour clearing out the drawing tools and other items she stored in her locker. She told Chiu she would return to the Tseung Kwan O campus that night, but did not say why.
The two went to Tiu Keng Leng MTR station and took trains together, but Chan refused to take a seat and sat on the floor instead. She did not change trains with Chiu at Mei Foo station as they had before, saying she was not returning home that afternoon. They never saw each other again.
In a subsequent WhatsApp exchange, Chan said she had gone to Prince Edward station and arrived at a Tsim Sha Tsui shopping centre. She said she was desperate to restart life at the new school and would skip a court hearing the next morning to attend class instead. Chan had been charged over allegedly kicking a policewoman outside a prison on August 13 last year.
“I just want to go to school happily, just to be myself,” Chan said in one message. “I just want to enjoy school, take beautiful pictures and paint pretty drawings.”
Chiu asked whether anything had happened to her, but Chan never answered. Her last message, sent at 5.18pm, was cryptic: “That’s very bad of you guys.” Chiu said she did not understand what it meant.
The court heard Chan had returned to Tiu Keng Leng station at 5.40pm, with security footage capturing her leaving some of her personal possessions, including a mobile phone, drawing tools and some papers, outside exit A and walking away.
Chong Lam-kin, the station’s control officer, said he called Chan’s mother, Ho Pui-yee, using the teen’s phone one hour later, only to learn she was outside Hong Kong and did not know her daughter’s whereabouts. The mother picked up Chan’s belongings two days later, when her daughter was still missing.
The inquest continues on Friday.
This article Classmate of Hong Kong teen found dead at sea recalls odd behaviour on their final day together first appeared on South China Morning Post