06052020What's Hot:

Hong Kong Professor Faces Murder Trial in ‘Yoga Ball Killing’

HONG KONG — A yoga ball filled with carbon monoxide. An affair between a professor and his student. A dead wife and daughter.

Dr. Khaw Kim-sun, a 53-year-old Malaysian professor of anesthesiology in Hong Kong, is on trial on murder charges after the death of his wife and their 16-year-old daughter in May 2015, a case whose dramatic headlines and odd details have riveted the city.

A passing jogger who noticed the mother and daughter in the family’s yellow Mini Cooper said that she had first thought that the two were napping. But when she passed them a second time and saw the car’s windshield wipers moving although it was not raining, she called the police.

The wife, Wong Siew-fing, 47, and daughter, Lily Li-ling Khaw, 16, were pronounced dead soon after their arrival at the Prince of Wales Hospital, where Dr. Khaw worked. An autopsy found that the two had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The defendant also worked as an associate professor in the department of anesthesia and intensive care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His colleagues at the university later reported having seen him pumping carbon monoxide into yoga exercise balls the day before the killings. One ball, still inflated, was found under his desk. Another was found in the trunk of the Mini Cooper.

The toxic gas had been ordered for a rabbit experiment that Dr. Khaw had designed. But in court, the prosecutor described the experiment as a sham, questioning its scientific value and suggesting it was a means to obtain the gas for the “deliberate and calculated murder.”

In testimony last week, the family’s maid said that Dr. Khaw and his wife generally ate meals separately, slept in different rooms and drove separate cars. A friend testified that Ms. Wong had known that her husband was having an affair with a student, Shara Lee, who had previously tutored the couple’s children in the family home.

May-ling Khaw, 22, the couple’s eldest daughter, took the stand on Monday, portraying Dr. Khaw in testimony and questioning as a loving father despite his marital transgressions.

“At first, I felt slightly betrayed that he would do this,” she told the court, referring to her father’s infidelity. “At the same time, my parents hadn’t really been getting along.”

She said that her mother learned of the affair in 2013 but appeared to have come to terms with it. But, contradicting the maid’s testimony, she said that her parents shared their two cars.

Ms. Khaw, who said her deceased sister was her “soul mate,” described her sobbing father breaking the news of her mother and sister’s deaths in a phone call.

“It was a really strange sound, and one I’ve never heard before,” she told the courtroom. “It took me a while to realize that my dad was crying on the phone.”

The remaining family members stayed together in their home after the deaths, hiding from photographers and reporters, Ms. Khaw said, and the children tried not to leave the father home alone. At night, they pulled mattresses into one room.

“He just looked so broken,” she said.

At the end of her long testimony, she asked the judge if she could remain in the courtroom to “support her father,” who had been weeping as she described the aftermath of the deaths and the pressures the remaining family members faced. Her younger siblings also appeared in the courtroom last week, smiling and waving at their father before court sessions began.

Dr. Khaw had long exhorted his children to excel despite any hurdles they faced, including learning disabilities or mental health issues. Ms. Khaw said she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder at 16. Lily was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention-deficient hyperactive disorder when she was 6, and her eldest sister described her behavior as “impulsive.”

In the testimony, Ms. Khaw said that her father had exerted immense pressure, trivializing their struggles to focus on academics and rebuking them for not trying hard enough. “My father discouraged me from taking anti-depressants because he didn’t believe that I was depressed,” she said.

That constant pressure had contributed to her past experience of suicidal thoughts, she added.

Dr. Khaw, who has pleaded not guilty, had told the police that Lily might have tried to kill herself with the yoga ball. Last week, the prosecutor, Andrew Bruce, said in court that was a “lame excuse” and “simply untrue.”

Prosecutors say that when Dr. Khaw drove the yoga balls home in his Toyota, he had used a monitor that would sound an alarm if the gas reached dangerous levels. They said Ms. Lee, his mistress, was an assistant in the rabbit experiment.

In her testimony on Monday, Ms. Khaw explained the family’s unusual dynamics, saying her father often slept in her younger brother’s room while the brother shared a room with their mother.

Her father, she said, drastically changed his eating habits seven or eight years ago, adopting a diet consisting only of vegetables and tofu. The family had jokingly referred to his embrace of healthy eating as a “midlife crisis,” she told the courtroom, drawing a smile from the defendant.

Follow Tiffany May on Twitter: @NYtmay.

Source: NYT > World

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic