The Hong Kong trial of a British banker accused of the grisly 2014 killings of two Indonesian women is expected to be “particularly horrifying,” including photographic evidence of one victim’s torture, the judge told prospective jurors as the case got underway Monday.
The banker, 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.
Jutting is charged with the murders of Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih, whose bodies were found in his upscale apartment near the Asian financial centre’s Wan Chai red-light district, in a case 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 looked a lot 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.
A third charge was also read out, unlawful burial of Sumarti Ningsih’s body, to which he pleaded guilty. Her body was found stuffed in a suitcase left in a balcony while Seneng Mujiasih’s body had knife wounds on the neck and buttock, according to initial police reports.
Judge Michael Stuart-Moore said to jurors before the selection began that there were “particularly horrifying aspect 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 the Jutting is entitled to a fair trial.
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 is a Cambridge University graduate who 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 Seneng had let her domestic worker visa lapse and 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.