Hong Kong double murder: Accused Briton pleads not guilty, citing 'diminished responsibility'

British banker Rurik Jutting (second, left), accused of the murders of two Indonesian women, sitting in a prison van as he arrives at the Eastern Court in Hong Kong on May 8, 2015.
British banker Rurik Jutting (second, left), accused of the murders of two Indonesian women, sitting in a prison van as he arrives at the Eastern Court in Hong Kong on May 8, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Nearly two years after police found two women dead in his Hong Kong apartment, Rurik Jutting, a former Bank of America Corp. employee, pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter on Monday (Oct 24).

The former British banker and Cambridge University graduate is accused of killing Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 29, whose bodies were found at Jutting's apartment in the Wan Chai district on November 1, 2014. He was 29 when charged.

Jutting pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of "diminished responsibility" at the start of his trial in Hong Kong. He also pleaded guilty to a third charge of preventing lawful burial of a body.

Before the jury selection, Jutting’s barrister Tim Owen explained the argument for diminished responsibility was based on the grounds of a personality disorder.

Deputy High Court Judge Michael Stuart-Moore said, “there isn’t a disease here, it is a personality disorder.”

Prosecutor John Reading stated that psychopathic behaviour was not a reason for diminished responsibility, setting up the arguments both parties will make during the trial.

Jutting was found fit to plea after undergoing psychiatric assessment at the end of 2014 after being charged for the double murder.

During the jury selection, Judge Stuart-Moore warned potential jurors that if they were unable to cope with viewing extreme violence, they should not take part.

He explained the case would involve a number of horrifying and extreme colour photographs. “The defendant even recorded on his iPhone the torture inflicted on the first victim before she died.”

He stated that the evidence in this case is to a large extent agreed between the parties, but the dispute may lie in psychiatric and psychological evidence provided by the defence.

A LinkedIn profile for Jutting showed he worked at Merrill Lynch's Asian structured equity finance and trading division, starting in July 2013 in Hong Kong. On Friday, Bank of America spokesman Paul Scanlon declined to comment on the trial, or on Jutting's employment at the bank.

Jutting called police at about 3.42am on November 1, 2014, requesting that they come to his apartment, according to a police statement. Police found Mujiasih with cuts on her neck and buttock, and she was certified dead at the scene.

On the apartment's balcony, police found the body of Ningsih, who had been missing for several days. She had neck wounds and her body was inside a suitcase. A knife was seized at the scene, according to the statement.

The case is being closely watched by the 300,000-strong migrant domestic helpers community in Hong Kong. Outside the High Court, about a dozen of their representatives held placards reading “Justice for Wanchai Murder Victim” and “Stop Violence”.

The case is Hong Kong Special Administrative Region v Jutting Rurik George Caton, HCCC 183/2015, Hong Kong High Court.