A Lamma Island resident has told HKFP how she realised the man she was having a drink with on Wednesday night was a murder suspect police had described as violent and “extremely dangerous.”
31-year-old Matthew Choi was arrested following the stabbing of a taxi driver in Sai Ying Pun early Tuesday. The 48-year-old driver died later at hospital, triggering a two-day city-wide police manhunt during a T8-level typhoon. Choi has denied involvement.
A Lamma resident, who only wished to use her first name, Tracy, told HKFP that she went to Man Loon store at lunchtime for supplies and chatted to some local workers and a third man over drinks: “He was lovely, gentle, and we had a really good chat,” she said, before they all left owing to the typhoon. When she returned at 6:30pm, the suspect – Choi – was back at the outdoor tables.
“We chatted again. But a few things I asked him made me confused. Nothing dark or horrid, but he was still in really wet clothes that he had been in all day. And alarm bells started ringing. Then I remembered a news report I had read that morning, and thought ‘Oh my God, is this him?'” she said.
Tracy said she told Choi she needed the bathroom and went home – around a minute away – where she checked the police “wanted” mugshot. “[I] immediately got on my computer, saw his picture and realised it was him. So I called the police.”
“[O]n Lamma, it’s quite normal to strike up conversations with complete strangers,” she added.
After calling the police at 7:16pm, she returned to the outdoor seats on the Lamma Island Family Walk trail: “[I] sat back down, offered Matthew a beer, and waited for the police to show up… I sat there making small talk with him until the police arrived. It was surreal, and I felt really sad.”
“He was chatting to me about regular life stuff. And I’m smiling and nodding, whilst at the same time thinking ‘I’ve just called the police on you.’ I wasn’t scared. We’d shared some good chats. I just felt sorry for the whole situation,” she said.
She said that police showed up shortly after she called them again: “They were actually very polite and calm. Asked to see his ID. Then around five minutes later asked him to get down on the ground, and they handcuffed him. Then many riot police, or police in fatigues and holding shields, turned up.”
Ex-chief executive Leung Chun-ying offered a HK$300,000 reward from his “803 fund” for anyone with information leading to the arrest.
When asked if she had been in touch, Tracy – who is a full-time teacher – said she was aware of the reward hotline: “[M]any of my Chinese mates kept calling me after midnight with numbers, and links, etc… I called the hotline, but it was in Chinese. I think I left a recorded message, but wasn’t sure if they got it.”
“I got a call from the fund this morning. Apparently a Chinese lady called them with my name and telephone number to say I caught the guy. Don’t you just love Lamma?”
She was told she may get a percentage of the fund “as this is a special case.”
Hong Kong Island Regional Crime Unit Chief Inspector Tse Tsz-kwan told reporters overnight that a 31-year-old was arrested at 8:36pm Wednesday.
HKFP witnessed Choi being marched from the Lamma police post to the main ferry pier with around a dozen police officers, some with riot shields. Residents cheered as they passed through Yung Shue Wan Main Street.
“When the suspect was arrested, he did not possess any weapons, nor did he have any visible injuries, Tse said. “But a black garbage bag was found near him. In it was a black stab-resistant vest and a nine-centimetre-long folding knife,” he added, according to RTHK.
Security footage showed the taxi driver was stabbed around 12 seconds after the suspect – who was residing in a hotel – entered the cab.
The force had warned the the suspect was “extremely dangerous, and could have violent tendencies.”
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