The month-long murder trial of Malaysian professor Khaw Kim Sun, 53, shed light on his long, unhappy marriage to the woman he killed, and his relationship with a student who became his lover.
The love triangle was not relied on specifically by prosecutors to establish his motive for murder, but featured prominently throughout the four-week trial.
Khaw was found guilty on Wednesday of murdering his wife of 23 years, Wong Siew Fing, 47, and their 16-year-old daughter, Lily Khaw Li Ling, by carbon monoxide poisoning on May 22, 2015. He left a gas-filled yoga ball in the Mini Cooper Wong drove that day, with Lily in the car.
The court heard that Khaw and Wong had been estranged for years although they continued living in the same home with their four children. He and his lover, Shara Lee, were together for years too, and even travelled abroad as a couple after his wife’s death.
Although Khaw and Wong discussed divorce, they never took that step. Wong told her yoga teacher, whom she saw regularly before her death, that Khaw was afraid that if they divorced, she would end up getting a share of his fortune.
A source familiar with the case told the Post that the yoga teacher confirmed this in a statement to police.
But Khaw had a different explanation when he told police why they did not divorce.
“We actually discussed separation and divorce,” he said during a police interview which was played in court during his trial.
“We felt that we could not cope with four children individually, which is why we decided to stay together as parents to look after the children and we have managed to keep our emotional difficulties away from the relationship.”
Khaw was a medical student in the United Kingdom in 1988 when he met Wong, a Malaysian nurse. They got married four years later.
The couple moved to Hong Kong in 1997 with their first child, daughter Khaw May Ling, who was born in the UK. Their two other daughters, Lily and Carly Khaw Ka Ling, and son, Khaw Ka Ming, were born in Hong Kong.
Khaw told police that he and his wife began drifting apart in 2007, and that they disagreed over how to raise the children. He said he was a strict father whereas she was too lax as a parent.
It was around that time that Khaw’s lover came into the picture.
Eldest daughter May Ling told the court that Lee became the children’s Chinese tutor in 2004 and would come to their home. But Khaw claimed that he only met Lee after his relationship with his wife deteriorated.
Lee was also Khaw’s student at the Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, where she was doing a doctorate and he was her mentor. The Post found that the pair worked together on at least 10 published academic articles.
Khaw claimed that they eventually got together in 2012. “I … was quite lonely and I found that she was a good companion and we became closer and closer,” he said in a police interview.
Lee, now an assistant professor of radiography at Polytechnic University, was never arrested, but she was a suspect during the police investigations because she showed up briefly while Khaw was conducting experiments with carbon monoxide.
Prosecutors said Khaw staged the experiments as a cover to obtain the carbon monoxide that killed his wife and daughter.
Khaw defended his lover strenuously when police asked about her role in the murders. “I can vouch that she has got nothing to do with the investigation of this incident,” he told them.
His defence lawyer, Gerard McCoy SC, argued during his closing speech at the trial that Khaw’s affair should not be considered a motive, because Wong had long accepted her husband’s extramarital affair.
Presiding High Court judge Mrs Judianna Barnes Wai-ling agreed, but also noted that Khaw would benefit financially if Wong died.
This article At the heart of yoga ball murder case was a deeply unhappy marriage, trial hears first appeared on South China Morning Post
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