- 'I thought he wanted us to die with him,' says wife of Cheung Kam-fai, who injured 18 people when he set fire to train - and himself
- Witnesses recount how carriage became an inferno as Cheung shouted and splashed flammable liquid
A Hong Kong man who set fire to a MTR train in 2017 was emotionally unstable and had threatened to kill himself and his family in a group suicide, an inquest heard on Monday.
Victims giving testimony at the inquiry into the death of Cheung Kam-fai recounted how the train carriage turned into an inferno shortly before it reached the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station on February 10, 2017.
Several witnesses said in the moment before the blaze, a man shouted angry words as he splashed liquid from a bottle that smelled like paint thinner.
"The fire then spread really quickly," Yip Ka-yan, one of the witnesses, told the court on Monday. Her fingers were burned during the fire. At least 18 people were injured in the arson attack.
Another victim Cheng Chak-yin, who had to roll on the floor to extinguish the flames on his clothing, handed the court a witness statement. He said the man tried to cuddle with a woman who had curled up on the floor. In specific terms, the man put his hands around the woman's waist from behind and rested his head against hers.
"He cuddled the woman as if he wanted to set her on fire," Cheng wrote in his statement.
According to the testimony of a police constable, Cheung, 61, confessed to the act of arson shortly before he lost consciousness.
Cheung, a father of two, was hospitalised but died three months later on May 14, 2017. As much as 30 per cent of his body was covered in second- and third-degree burns, mostly on his face, limbs and back. On Monday, the Coroner's Court, made up of five jurors, began to investigate the cause of his death.
His wife, Wen Weijiao, said Cheung had struggled with mental issues and a gambling addiction since they got married, and he once put her and their son and daughter in danger.
I thought he wanted us to die with him. I never thought he would do this outside the familyWen Weijiao, wife of arsonist
"I thought he wanted us to die with him. I never thought he would do this outside the family," she said.
On one occasion in 2007, Wen said, Cheung wanted them all to die so he caused a leak in the coal gas supply at their home. Police came and arrested him. Cheung was then placed in a psychiatric ward for more than a month, she said.
Wen said she moved to Hong Kong in 2005 from Guangdong, five years after she married Cheung in mainland China. Cheung was born in Zhangjiang, also in Guangdong, and moved to Hong Kong around 1979.
She said Cheung's mental problems emerged the year she arrived. Her husband, who she said was under immense financial pressure at the time, had problems sleeping and would talk to himself.
He eventually received better medical treatment and improved, Wen said. But when Cheung had a relapse in 2015, Wen contemplated taking their two children and leaving him.
Cheung set fire to the MTR train a few weeks after Wen asked him to sign the divorce papers. "I'd rather die here before I would sign it," he said, according to Wen.
On the day of the arson attack, Yip recalled someone shouting expletives on the train shortly before the carriage caught on fire. "Go to hell," she remembered hearing.
The fire took place in the first carriage, so people fled in the direction of the rear of the train, she said.
According to Cheng's statement, the man was remarkably calm despite his lower body being on fire.
Cheng said Cheung even rested on a chair for a bit before he went to cuddle with the woman curled up on the floor.
In trying to help, Cheng kicked the man, but it only caused him to hold on to the woman more tightly, the witness wrote. The carriage, meanwhile, was now filled with smoke.
Police constable Lai Chun-hee said he spoke to Cheung at the Tsim Sha Tsui Station platform before he passed out. He said Cheung told him the fire was an act of revenge.
"He said he got divorced from his wife and Donald Tsang (the former chief executive of Hong Kong) had caused his son's death," Lai said.
Cheung's son is now 16 years old and his daughter is 18, according to Wen.
The case continues before coroner Ko Wai-hung on Tuesday.
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