Three men have been remanded in custody charged with the murder of a Chinese restaurateur who was stabbed 17 times in front of his wife during a roadside robbery.
The estranged wife of one of the murder accused appeared in court alongside the trio charged with other offences linked to the killing of Wing Fu “Nelson” Cheung.
The 65-year-old was stabbed to death last week after robbers forced his car off the road in a remote area of Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Ballymena Magistrates’ Court heard Mr Cheung was dragged from his Kia Jeep by two men demanding money and knifed repeatedly on the roadside.
A detective told district judge Joe Rice that his wife Kam Fung “Winnie” Cheung was then pulled from the vehicle by her hair and also stabbed, suffering a serious wound to an artery in her hand, before she managed to break free and run off to a nearby house.
“She later returned to find her husband deceased by the side of the road,” said Police Service of Northern Ireland Detective Inspector John Caldwell.
The Cheungs, who ran the Double Value Chinese restaurant in Randalstown, Co Antrim, had been travelling home to Ballymena shortly after midnight on Thursday when their jeep was rammed from behind by a Seat Toledo on the rural Caddy Road.
Portuguese welder Virgilio Augusto Fernando Correia, 33, from Grant Avenue, Randalstown; Gary William Thompson, a 32-year-old engineer from Cunningham Way, Antrim; and unemployed Christopher David Menaul, 25, from Barra Street, Antrim, appeared before judge Rice charged with the murder.
They have also been charged with the attempted murder of Mrs Cheung and robbing her of a number of items, including a handbag, iPhone, iPad, £200 cash and a bank and credit card, and the attempted robbery of money from her husband.
Menaul is additionally charged with the burglary of a home on Magheralane Road near Randalstown in the days before - a property the Seat used in murder was stolen from.
Thompson’s estranged wife, care assistant Lisa Thompson, 32, of Cunningham Way, Antrim, appeared charged with handling stolen goods, namely the iPhone, and perverting the course of justice by allegedly providing a false account of her husband’s movements.
Mr Rice remanded all four in custody.
“This was a crime designed to strike terror and fear into the Chinese and business communities in the Randalstown and Ballymena areas,” said the judge.
“Under no circumstances must that ever be allowed to succeed.”
Mr Caldwell earlier told the judge he could connect all four with the charges facing them.
While the Thompsons and Menaul appeared in the dock alongside each other - each speaking only to confirm their names and that they understood the charges - Correia’s case was heard separately shortly afterwards.
His lawyer said his client claimed he had acted “under duress” and was “under threat from his co-accused”.
Unshaven Correia, dressed in a blue jumper with tight black hair, sat impassively through his hearing having also spoken briefly at the outset to confirm his name and that he understood the charges he faced.
In the earlier proceedings a lawyer for Menaul alleged that Correia was attempting to “implicate as many co-accused as possible” in a bid to exculpate himself of responsibility.
The solicitor went on to allege that Correia was the person who had stabbed Mr Cheung.
Mr Caldwell confirmed that during police interview Menaul had denied any involvement in the murder and claimed he had been in Randalstown with his girlfriend at the time.
It is alleged that Menaul, who sat in the dock dressed in a blue and white hoody, had been in a Volkswagen car also involved in the attack and in which Mrs Cheung’s blood was later found on the hand break.
In relation to the additional burglary charge, Mr Caldwell said a watch stolen from the Magheralane Road home was found hidden under a boiler in Menaul’s house.
Neither Menaul or Correia applied for bail. Applications for bail from the Thompsons, who have two teenage children, were rejected by judge Rice.
A lawyer representing Lisa Thompson had insisted the case facing her was much different than those of her co-accused.
“The charges she faces are much less significant than her other co-accused,” he said.
The husband and wife, each wearing dark blue jumpers, sat on either side of Menaul in the dock.
Gary Thompson’s solicitor said his client had strenuously denied involvement during his 96 hours in custody.
He added: “The case against my client is a limited and circumstantial one.”
But Mr Rice said the lawyers for the two accused had failed to satisfactorily address the police’s objections to bail, namely potential risks of absconding, obstructing the investigation and interfering with witnesses.
The judge remanded all the defendants in custody to appear before Antrim Magistrates’ Court via videolink on February 10.