Jealous killer’s provocation claim rejected by court
A man who claimed he strangled his girlfriend after she confessed to being a prostitute has lost his appeal against being convicted of murder.
Chang Hai Zhang's lawyers argued that he was provoked into killing fellow Chinese national Qu Mei Na (below) in Belfast seven years ago because she valued her clients more than him.
He claimed to have felt demeaned and enraged when the 22-year-old victim, also known as Tina, said ropes he used to tie her left marks which would make her less attractive to other men.
But judges in the Court of Appeal declared the guilty verdict safe after backing prosecution contentions that the evidence against him was overwhelming.
His legal team argued that the trial judge mishandled a partial defence of provocation put forward by the killer.
The court heard Qu Mei Na, a Chinese woman living in Dublin at the time of her death, travelled to Belfast to meet a co-accused who later pleaded guilty to assisting in the removal of her body.
Mr O'Donoghue said she was taken to the home of Zhang — who claimed to have been in a relationship with her since March 2004 — to stay with him for a few days.
During that period, he allegedly found a list of men's names on two sheets of paper in her handbag.
Zhang angrily confronted her, and was told they were the details of others she had slept with, the court heard.
He claimed to have kept her bound to the bed with ropes overnight — twice freeing her to go to the toilet.
Ms Na complained about rope marks on her wrists, asked for the list back and dared Zhang to kill her when he became angry, judges were told.
Zhang claimed he did not intend to kill her, and entered a manslaughter plea at trial on the ground of being provoked.
It was also argued on appeal that the jury were not properly directed about the defendant being Chinese and exposed to a culture involving an upbringing by an authoritarian father.
But Lord Justice Higgins, sitting with Lord Justice Girvan and Mr Justice Weatherup, held that as Ms Na did not taunt or insult the killer, the gravity of any provocation would have been no worse than for any other ordinary person.
Dealing with expert evidence about Zhang's Chinese origins and upbringing, the court held that it was not relevant to the issue of whether an ordinary man of ordinary self-control would have acted in the same way.
Zhang (right), (32), was given a minimum 17-year jail sentence for murdering Ms Na and dumping her body in the boot of a car. The victim's remains were discovered at a filling station in the north of the city, close to Zhang's Skegoneill Avenue home, in June 2004. Zhang accepted responsibility for the killing, but claimed to have strangled her during a temporary loss of self-control.