The police officer in charge of investigating the death of a 15-year-old girl found in Hong Kong waters last year has admitted the force might have overlooked some security footage showing her final hours at her school campus the day she disappeared.
Detective Constable Lee Ho-kit told the Coroner’s Court on Friday he and his colleagues did not check all CCTV video taken from the Hong Kong Design Institute, where Chan Yin-lam was enrolled. The teen went missing on September 19 last year and her body was found off the waters of Tseung Kwan O three days later.
A 30-minute compilation of footage, played in court on Friday, showed Chan spent 70 minutes wandering the school premises before leaving – barefoot – at 7pm. She went to a nearby housing estate and took a 10-minute taxi ride to a construction site near the sea, the court also heard.
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Lee, who put the footage together, testified it did not show all of the teen’s behaviour at the campus during the period as parts deemed irrelevant to the investigation were left out.
His team was unable to review all of the approximately 300 hours of footage taken from school cameras due to time constraints, he said, adding officers were only concerned whether she had any accidents that day. The officer concluded she left the school safely that night.
“Some footage offered no assistance to our investigation,” he said. “If [Chan] had come into any trouble, she wouldn’t have walked out of the campus.”
The inquest, which began on Monday, heard Chan started a year-long degree programme at the institute on September 16 and reportedly enjoyed campus life.
But a classmate earlier testified about the teen’s odd behaviour on the final day they were together at school. Chan was said to have packed her belongings at home overnight, cleared out her school locker, and refused to go home right away. She sent cryptic messages to her friends before contact suddenly stopped.
Security footage played in court showed Chan returning to the campus on September 19 at around 5.50pm, after having earlier left at around 1.30pm with friends.
The video shows Chan looking around smiling, pressing lift buttons without entering the elevators, and moving a warning sign on a footbridge for no apparent reason.
Leung Po-yi, the school’s administrative officer, said Chan’s belongings were turned in later that night, which included her identity card, student ID, a mobile phone and an Octopus stored value card. They were found by two people on a campus bench.
According to police, the Octopus card belonged to Lai Mei-ling, who lost it one year before the teen’s death and did not know her. She declined to testify, saying she had suffered no loss.
The footage shows Chan leaving the campus, walking through a shopping centre next to Tiu Keng Leng MTR station and appearing at a nearby housing estate. Cameras lose track of her at this point. According to taxi driver Chow Tai-lai, she asked him to drive her to a construction site next to Lohas Park station, a few hundred metres from a promenade along the water. The girl’s destination surprised him, he said, but he drove her anyway, believing she lived nearby and knew some short cut.
Chow forgot about the encounter but recalled it one month later when learning of her death from the news and contacted police.
Lee, the officer, said his team followed up on the driver’s tip and investigated the area where Chan got out of the taxi but could not locate any relevant surveillance footage.
Magistrate Ko Wai-hung told the five-member jury there was no proof the teen took her life by jumping into the sea that night. He said the court could only deduce how the girl died based on circumstantial evidence.
The inquest continues on Monday.