Thursday 8 December 2016

Hong Kong trial of British banker accused of grisly killings of two women will be 'particularly horrifying' - judge warns

Kelvin Chan, in Hong Kong

Published 24/10/2016 | 06:45

Rurik Jutting, a 29-year-old British banker who has been charged with two counts of murder, sits in a police van as it arrives at a court in Hong Kong earlier this month
Rurik Jutting, a 29-year-old British banker who has been charged with two counts of murder, sits in a police van as it arrives at a court in Hong Kong earlier this month

The Hong Kong trial of a British banker accused of the grisly 2014 killings of two Indonesian women is expected to be "particularly horrifying", with photographic evidence of one victim's torture, the judge has told prospective jurors.

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Rurik Jutting entered a plea of not guilty to two murder charges that were read out at the High Court, with prosecutors rejecting his attempt to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The Cambridge graduate is charged with the murders of Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih, whose bodies were found in his upmarket apartment near Hong Kong's Wan Chai red-light district.

The case is expected to highlight the Asian financial hub's inequality and privileged lifestyle of its wealthy expat elite.

Jutting, who wore a dark blue shirt, glasses and was visibly slimmer than in his court appearances last year, was put into a glass-screened dock when he arrived in the court.

When the clerk asked what his plea was to the two murder charge, he replied "not guilty to murder by reason of diminished responsibility but guilty of manslaughter", which the prosecutors refused to accept, meaning the trial on the murder charges will proceed.

Police guard the prison bus carrying British banker Rurik Jutting at the High Court in Hong Kong (AP)
Police guard the prison bus carrying British banker Rurik Jutting at the High Court in Hong Kong (AP)

A third charge was also read out - unlawful burial of Sumarti Ningsih's body, to which he pleaded guilty.

One of the women's bodies was found stuffed in a suitcase left in a balcony while the other had knife wounds on the neck and buttock, according to initial police reports.

Indonesian women pray during a memorial for two murder victims in Hong Kong on Sunday. Rurik Jutting, a British banker charged with killing the two women in Hong Kong. Jutting did not enter a plea on Monday and did not seek bail. There will be another hearing later today
Indonesian women pray during a memorial for two murder victims in Hong Kong on Sunday. Rurik Jutting, a British banker charged with killing the two women in Hong Kong. Jutting did not enter a plea on Monday and did not seek bail. There will be another hearing later today

Judge Michael Stuart-Moore told jurors before the selection began that there were "particularly horrifying aspects to this case, with one victim subject to extreme violence and cruelty amounting to torture" before she died.

He said the evidence includes colour photographs that "are not pleasant photographs to look at. They are extremely upsetting".

He added that "the defendant even recorded on his iPhone part of the torture he inflicted on his first victim", which will be shown to the jury.

"Much of what the jury will see or hear is very disturbing indeed," he said, but added that Jutting was entitled to a fair trial.

Indonesian women attend a memorial for two murder victims in Hong Kong on Sunday. Rurik Jutting, a British banker charged with killing the two women in Hong Kong. Jutting did not enter a plea on Monday and did not seek bail. A further hearing takes place today (REUTERS/Venus Wu)
Indonesian women attend a memorial for two murder victims in Hong Kong on Sunday. Rurik Jutting, a British banker charged with killing the two women in Hong Kong. Jutting did not enter a plea on Monday and did not seek bail. A further hearing takes place today (REUTERS/Venus Wu)

While Jutting's initial guilty manslaughter plea was rejected, the judge told jurors that they could still decide between finding him guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Jutting worked for Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in structured equity finance and trading. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

The case shocked the former British colony, which has a reputation for being safe, while also highlighting the city's extreme inequality.

The victims had originally come to Hong Kong as foreign maids. But Ms Seneng had let her domestic worker visa lapse and Ms Sumarti had returned on a tourist visa.

They were among the more than 300,000 migrant domestic workers employed in Hong Kong, almost all of them women from Indonesia or the Philippines.

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