Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Triad gang jailed for life
Three men, believed to be part of a Vietnamese Triad gang, are beginning life sentences after being convicted of murdering a Malaysian waiter in London's Chinatown.
Quang Bui, 23, Chin Tran, 22, and Cuong Dang, 22, all from Bethnal Green, east London, were found guilty of killing Yong Wai Loon, 22, after a two-month trial at the Old Bailey. They were also convicted of wounding another man.
Because of fears of intimidation and reprisals witnesses gave evidence from behind wooden screens.
Many were given numbers and had their their voices electronically distorted, and only the judge, jurors and lawyers could hear their normal voices.
It is the first time such extreme precautions have been taken at the Old Bailey.
Judge Graham Boal, QC, gave permission for dozens of witnesses to have their identities withheld "because they observed frightening and violent events" and feared for their personal safety.
Detective Superintendent Brian Morris, who led the murder inquiry, said members of his team had travelled "half way round the world" seeking witnesses prepared to testify against the trio.
He said: "Many of those who saw this dreadful crime were running scared. It was a very delicate and sensitive inquiry.
"We liaised with the victim's family in Malaysia from the outset and kept them informed every step of the way," he said.
The ashes of the victim, who worked at a restaurant in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, were taken back to his family in Malaysia by police.
'Justice for the family'
Det Supt Morris said after the case: "We vowed to Mr Loon's grieving relatives that we would bring the culprits to justice.
"All we had to go on at first was a body and a pool of blood in the street. It was a very complex case."
The jury heard the trio were "looking for trouble" on the night of 23 February 1998 and launched vicious attacks on two innocent victims within 30 minutes.
The first man, identified only as 214, was slashed with broken bottles by the accused - from North Vietnamese backgrounds - and several other unidentified assailants outside the Hippodrome in Leicester Square.
'Lucky to survive'
Orlando Pownall, prosecuting, said the man was stabbed in the back and neck and was lucky to survive.
He said he had been asked: "Do you follow anyone?", a reference to Triad allegiance.
Mr Pownall said they then attacked Mr Loon, who was drunk, in nearby Lisle Street. He was beaten with sticks, punched, kicked and stabbed at least three times and left dying in the gutter.
Sentencing them to life in prison, Judge Boal told the defendants: "You were involved in two horrific acts of violence, within half an hour of each other and in the heart of this capital city."
He said the motive for the night of violence "might have been sinister."