Call-girl appeals murder conviction
After legal arguments were presented during the appeal at the Royal Court of Justice last week, it’s now up to the judges to decide if the appeal should be allowed — which can then lead to them possibly quashing the conviction and the prosecution will have to consider whether to go for a re-trial.
If her appeal is not allowed, the conviction and sentence for Azura will remain the same — a minimum of 15 years before parole.
But it will be a few tense weeks before the decision is known — as the reserved judgment of her appeal will be released in writing only then. Azura’s boyfriend, Vietnamese Trach Lon Gian, who was convicted for murder and perverting the course of justice by disposing of the body, has also appealed against his convictions and sentence.
Gian, 28, is serving 22 years at Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire.
During the appeal, Azura, housed at the Holloway women’s prison in London, was in court, while Gian followed the proceedings via a tele-conference.
She wore a black polo neck and white jacket with her hair tied back. She even had some makeup on and was wearing earrings. However, she looked nervous throughout the five-hour appeal submissions.
Gian, on the other hand, looked fit in sports jacket and a white T-shirt. He listened intently and showed no emotion.
In the appeal proceedings, Lord Justice Moses, Mr Justice Keith and Mr Justice Foskett listened to arguments by Peter Carter QC for Azura and Jane Humphreys QC for Gian.
On cause of death, the lawyers put forward that the victim, Xie Xing Xing, was in the process of dying from cocaine overdose, and she died of this before she received the stab wounds.
The second argument was that the trial judge did not properly direct the jury on the possibility that Xie had collapsed as a result of drug intoxication, but may still have been alive — in a coma.
The defendants, Azura and Gian, thought she was dead, panicked and sought to dispose of her body by cutting off her head and hands — clearly to avoid identification of the victim.
Carter said the prosecution did not adequately dispel this hypothesis to the jury. A defendant cannot be guilty of murder if he or she did an assault — in this case stabbing a body that you honestly believe to be dead.
Prosecutor Brian Altman argued that these hypotheses were put to the jury through cross-examination and covered in the judge’s summing up. His argument was that despite having this information, the jury must have dismissed these hypotheses and found them guilty.
Humphreys argued the DNA profile showed there were only three tiny specks of blood found on the bathroom door and that the prosecutor failed to establish where she was murdered or decapitated. She said Xie may have collapsed, therefore they moved her to another location.
She said a detective constable made an unnecessary comment when giving evidence, which had a prejudical effect on the jury — that the waste trap in the bathroom at 54, Knoyle Street, “smelled of a morgue”.
In response, Altman said the bedsheet, jacket and laundry bag found with the victim’s body were from Knoyle Street in New Cross, southeast London, where Azura and Gian lived.
He noted that if Xie died of cocaine overdose and her body was moved elsewhere, why did the occupants of the house do “an exceptionally thorough cleaning” of the place and why were they “running away”?
Azura, (who worked as a prostitute in the UK), who is from Malacca of a Chinese mother, listened to her counsel’s submissions helped by an interpreter in Cantonese. An Eastern European man, who claimed to be Azura’s friend, sat in the public gallery.
Lord Justice Moses said he would give his decision on the appeal in the next few weeks.
VICTIM'S HANDS NEVER FOUND
THE four-week trial of Xie Xing Xing was held at the Old Bailey in July and August last year.
The victim’s headless and handless body was found in a laundry bag in the River Thames in April 2007.
Seven weeks later, her head was found wrapped in plastic bin liners in an adjacent dock. No hands were ever found.
There were two stabs wounds on the victim’s neck.
Prior to the trial, back in April 2007, Azura and Gian were traced at Heathrow and travelled to the Midlands. They had also changed their phone SIM cards and changed their names.
Another man, Chanh Ngo, wanted in connection with the killing, has fled Britain.
"Hearsay" evidence from Xie's friend said Azura had threatened to kill the Xie because she was jealous.
When she was arrested in July 2007, Azura cried and told the police: “I haven’t slept for two months. I slapped her, I beat her up, by mistake she died.”