Police on Saturday urged people with knowledge of the death of a 15-year-old girl found dead in Hong Kong waters last September to come forward, in an appeal issued the day after an inquest ruled out suicide or unlawful killing.
The force said it was prepared to take further action in relation to Chan Yin-lam’s case once they had digested the Coroner’s Court judgment, which is set to be handed down later.
The five-member jury unanimously returned an open verdict on Friday after they were unable to determine the cause and circumstances of her death.
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It marked the end of a key chapter in a case that has been the talk of the city after the tragedy sparked wild conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated rumours of foul play.
Chan’s body was found in the harbour off Tseung Kwan O on September 22, 2019, three days after she was last seen by friends and her image was caught on security cameras.
Writing on Facebook on Saturday, police said they respected the verdict and conveyed condolences to the teenager’s family.
The force also noted that despite its repeated calls for witnesses over the past year, some of them only came forward as willing to testify midway through the inquest.
“As a matter of fact, police had made public appeal on the case hoping to acquire more information,” the post read.
“We now appeal to citizens, who have knowledge of the case, to come forward and contact the force. The force will study the judgment handed by the court later, so as to consider appropriate follow-up actions.”
Coroner Ko Wai-hung said the evidence was insufficient to conclude, without reasonable doubt, whether Chan had committed suicide or been killed unlawfully.
He ordered police to retain one of her mobile phones for a year and investigate further if they could obtain fresh evidence from the device. The iPhone was locked when found, preventing officers from retrieving any data.
On Saturday, police said they had sifted through 2,900 hours of CCTV footage during the investigation, taking more than 30 witness statements before submitting a detailed report to the coroner.
The force also brushed off accusations that officers were “hiding evidence” by allowing the cremation of Chan’s body soon after the death, saying the process was authorised by the cremation order granted by the coroner.
Chan’s death had spawned a series of conspiracy theories, fuelled by social unrest and widespread distrust in the government and police, alleging that she died at the hands of law enforcement from the city or mainland China, due to her involvement in Hong Kong’s protests.
Police have vigorously denied and condemned such rumours, saying there was nothing suspicious about the teenager’s death, and she had not been arrested at protests, sparked in June last year by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
Chan’s mother had asserted in a television interview before the inquiry began that her daughter had taken her own life.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Why Hong Kong is fixated on the death of a teenage girl whose body was found at sea
- Hong Kong jury returns open verdict on death of teen found at sea after coroner rules out suicide, homicide