Mum in HK charged over daughter's murder

HONG KONG • A woman who is accused of killing her daughter and dismembering her body made her first appearance in court on Wednesday and claimed she did not understand the allegation against her.

Cao, 37, when told that she was being charged with one count of murder shook her head repeatedly and mumbled: "Do not understand."

Cao, a single mother from China who worked as a masseuse at a Hong Kong nightclub to support her daughter and herself, was not represented by a lawyer, the South China Morning Post reported.

Acting principal magistrate So Wai Tak then patiently asked her: "Do you not understand the allegations or Chinese?"

Speaking in Cantonese with a Chinese accent, Cao replied: "The allegations."

But when asked if she knew what the term murder meant, she said she did.

When questioned further, Cao said: "There are so many unclear matters involved in this incident. I, myself, was quite confused about it."

Arrested on Sunday night after allegedly killing her daughter - known as He Meijie in some reports - she stood behind the dock at West Kowloon Court, squinted and stared at the public gallery often. She was not required to make a plea on Wednesday, the Post reported.

The 12-year-old daughter, who was from Cao's first marriage, was living and studying in Hong Kong. She was found chopped up into dozens of pieces and had her face ripped off, the Chinese-language Ming Pao reported, citing sources.

It said police had notified the girl's father, who lives in China, to go to Hong Kong to collect her remains. The girl's dismembered body was discovered on Sunday when police visited the subdivided flat in Mong Kok district that she and her mother lived in for an unrelated complaint. A neighbour had made a police report after Cao refused to return a cellphone she had borrowed.

Police removed 12 bags of body parts from the 60 sq ft flat. Some of the organs were believed to have been flushed down the toilet by Cao. She was suspected to have been taking drugs and had used a chopper on her daughter's body after becoming delirious, Hong Kong media reports said on Tuesday.

Cao, who has gone through two failed marriages, is believed to be in the habit of taking methamphetamine. Police had found a flask for consuming drugs, as well as condoms, at the crime scene.

The prosecutors said on Wednesday that police needed more time for more investigations and asked for an adjournment, the Post reported. The case is adjourned to Feb 28.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'Mum in HK charged over daughter's murder'. Print Edition | Subscribe