Abby Choi: What an influencer’s death and dismemberment say about life in ‘safe’ Hong Kong

Content Warning: This story contains descriptions of violence that readers may find disturbing.

hong kong

Hong Kong’s postcard image is of glitzy skyscrapers against lush mountains, dim sum restaurants and investment bankers in suits.

But in recent weeks, the international financial center has once again made headlines for something darker: the death of model and influencer Abby Choi, whose dismembered body parts were found along with a meat slicer and a electric saw in a rental unit last month.

The death of the 28-year-old man mother not only horrified a city regularly ranked as one of the safest in the world, but also gripped much of the world’s media with the gruesome details of his alleged murder.

For Hong Kongers, it has also resurfaced painful memories of previous dismemberment cases in the city – many of which targeted young women and almost all of which were perpetrated by men.

There’s the so-called “Hello Kitty” murder of 1999, when 23-year-old Fan Man-yee was abducted by gang members and brutally tortured for a month before her death and dismemberment. Her skull was eventually found sewn inside a Hello Kitty plush doll.

There were the four women, the youngest of whom was just 17, killed by a taxi driver who kept their dismembered body parts in jars before his arrest in 1982. Then came Wong Ka-mui, 16, who was strangled and dismembered in 2008 and his remains flushed down the toilet.

And in 2013, Glory Chau and Moon Siu were murdered and dismembered by their 28-year-old son, a crime described by the judge as “evil” and “absolutely hideous”.

Henry Chau Hoi-leung, who murdered and dismembered his parents, is escorted from the Hong Kong High Court on March 20, 2015.

Tons of headlines followed each murder. But despite all the media attention, experts point out that such cases are exceptionally rare in Hong Kong, a city with an incredibly low violent crime rate for its population of 7.4 million.

Hong Kong experiences only a few dozen homicides each year, compared to several hundred in New York. And it only recorded 77 flights last year – compared to more than 17,000 in New York and 24,000 in London.

So why the enormous interest aroused by these few previous cases? Their rarity, combined with their brutality, is a factor, experts say.

But there may be another at play: buried beneath all the dark details of death is a peculiar glimpse of life in one of the world’s most densely populated cities.

Roderic Broadhurst, emeritus professor of criminology at the Australian National University previously based in Hong Kong, where he founded the Hong Kong Center for Criminology, estimated there had been a dozen dismemberment cases in the city over the past of the last 50 years.

Philip Beh, a semi-retired medical examiner who once worked with the Hong Kong police, gave a slightly lower estimate, saying he could recall less than 10 such cases over his 40-year career. .

Taxi driver and serial killer Lam Kor-wan is brought before the Hong Kong High Court in March 1983.

Both experts pointed out that Hong Kong is still very safe and that these numbers are relatively low. Indeed, Hong Kong’s reputation for safety means the few cases that have occurred have left a stronger “footprint” on the city, Broadhurst said.

But the two also suggested that the horrific nature of these past cases – in particular, the dismemberment of limbs – reflects the realities of life in Hong Kong.

Simply put, hiding a body is much harder in the crowded city, home to tiny apartments and some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world.

Someone trying to dispose of a body in rural Australia, Canada or the United States has “a very good chance of getting away with it”, thanks to the vast space and open terrain, said said Beh.

This is not the case in Hong Kong.

“It’s basically people trying to get away with a crime, but failing to do so,” Beh said.

A killer in Hong Kong will most likely live within meters of dozens of people who might spot them trying to dispose of a dead body prompting some to divide the victims into smaller parts to eliminate them.

“Most people live in buildings on top of each other. We don’t have individuals with houses and gardens where you can go out and dig a hole and try to bury a body,” Beh said. “You are never really alone; your neighbors are above you, below you, beside you. Anything out of the ordinary will catch someone’s eye.

Broadhurst agreed, pointing out that in apartment buildings a murderer might have to enter an elevator shared by more than 100 households just to get out.

Several earlier cases involved killers cooking or boiling body parts – details that horrified the public and likely fueled by unsubstantiated rumors about cases like the 1985 “pork bun murders” in neighboring Macau. A man killed a family of 10, including the owners of a restaurant, and – as the urban legend goes (and the movie it inspired) – supposedly served them in buns.

But the explanation is much more mundane in most cases, Beh said.

In the humid, subtropical climate of Hong Kong, “body odor attracts attention very quickly”, he said – hence why some murderers might try to eliminate the odor by doing cook dismembered parts.

As for why these killers didn’t use methods commonly used in other countries — keeping the body in the freezer, dumping it in the water late at night — Hong Kong’s density poses yet another difficulty.

In its notoriously expensive housing market, apartments are typically too small and cramped for large furniture or kitchen appliances.

“Very few people have large refrigerators at home,” Beh said. “Even fewer have freezers. You can’t even keep the body if you wanted to.

He added that the same rarity applies to cars – and therefore the same difficulty in discreetly transporting a body.

Few residents own vehicles because apartment buildings with parking spaces are rare — in 2019, a parking space sold for nearly $1 million, a record — and the city has a system anyway. extensive and efficient public transport.

Fan Man-yee, the victim of

These factors combined could explain various cases over the years where killers have used bizarre and grotesque methods to deal with the bodies of their victims – such as the woman who was murdered by her husband in 2018 and her body kept in a suitcase, or the 28-year-old man whose body was found in a block of cement in 2016.

“We live in a place where, essentially, if you’ve killed someone, your next very pressing question is, what do you do with the body?” Beh said.

“There are very few options.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl