Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Adviser guilty of killing author

By Chris Summers and Dominic Casciani
BBC News home affairs

A court sketch of Wang Yam
Police refused to release a photograph of Wang Yam

A financial adviser has been found guilty of murdering an 86-year-old reclusive author after a trial partly held in secret.

Author Allan Chappelow was found dead at his north London home in June 2006. He had severe head injuries.

Wang Yam, 46, was convicted of killing Mr Chappelow after a retrial.

The defence in both trials was held "in camera" with the press and public excluded for unspecified national security and witness safety reasons.

Mr Chappelow was found battered to death under a pile of his papers in his large, ramshackle home.

Allan Chappelow
Allan Chappelow, 86, was savagely beaten to death

More than 40 years earlier, he had penned two biographies of the playwright George Bernard Shaw, along with an account of the first organised tourism visit to the Soviet Union.

The former part-time press photographer was a wealthy man, living off inherited money in one of London's most desirable neighbourhoods.

His garden was cluttered with rubbish - and often he would not answer the door. Postal workers would often leave letters outside, saying they could not safely reach the front door.

But Mr Chappelow was also known to neighbours as an intelligent man who was quite capable of handling his own affairs. He was often seen on his old motorbike zipping up and down the High Street.


When he was found dead after not being seen for a month, the question was who would want to kill him - and what was their motive?

Born Ren Hong, in China, in 1952
His grandfather was a Communist Party cadre
He became a professor of electrical engineering
He fled China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising
In 1998 he became a British citizen
In June 2006 he was extradited to the UK from Switzerland
In April 2008 there was a hung jury at his first trial
In January 2009 he was convicted at a retrial

In both the original 2008 trial and the second prosecution, the court heard that Chinese-born Wang Yam had murdered Mr Chappelow so he could steal 20,000 from his bank account.

Wang, who was born in China, was bankrupt with debts of 1.1m at the time, the court heard.

Wang was said to have manipulated the author's bank and credit card accounts to get money, impersonating the author over the internet or telephone.

Bank staff had alerted police when Wang contacted them, pretending to be the author.

The trials heard that Wang fled to Switzerland but was extradited back to the UK.

Secret hearings

Wang denied the charge, blaming an Albanian gangster instead, but his full defence case will never be known.

Allan Chappelow's home
Mr Chappelow's 4m home was falling to pieces

Large parts of the trial were held in camera after the prosecution requested a ban of the press and public on highly unusual grounds of witness protection and national security.

It is thought to have been the first time such a ban was put in place in a British murder trial.

Mark Ellison QC, for the prosecution, said in pre-trial legal argument there was a strong possibility the Crown would not proceed with the case if the order was not imposed.

After lengthy legal argument behind closed doors, challenged by most of the national media, the trial judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, ruled there were "compelling" reasons for the order to be granted.

The judge also banned the press from speculating or revealing the reasons for the ban by other means.

Former professor

Wang Yam was born Ren Hong, in China in 1952. His grandfather, Ren Bi-Shi, was said to have been one of Mao's comrades during the Long March in the 1930s.

Allan Chappelow's biography of George Bernard Shaw
Biographies on Shaw brought Chappelow some success

The court heard he was formerly an associate professor of electrical engineering at the Beijing Institute of Technology. He fled China following the crushing of the 1989 pro-democracy uprising in Tiananmen Square. The UK later granted him asylum.

In 1998 the former academic became a naturalised British citizen and began working in finance.

But prosecutors told the court that Wang was a man in dire financial straits who had spent years tricking money out of members of the British Chinese community.

After declaring himself bankrupt, he decided to target Mr Chappelow, the court heard.

The prosecution said Wang stole banking papers from the author's home, possibly found in the chaotic garden. He was also accused of trying to con estate agents into selling him expensive homes in north London he could not afford to buy.

Wang denied knowing Mr Chappelow or ever having been to his home. The court did not hear of forensic evidence placing him at the crime scene.

But Wang lived just a few streets away and there was evidence he had taken the author's money, leading to further convictions for dishonesty.

He will be sentenced on Monday.

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