A quarrel over a water bill is believed to have caused the grisly murder, suicide and arson incident in Sham Shui Po on Monday evening, resulting in the deaths of two men, local media reports.
Emergency services were called to a subdivided unit on Tai Nan Street just before midnight, where they found a 68-year-old man surnamed Chu lying on the ground outside the building, and the body of a 59-year-old man surnamed Zhou inside the burnt apartment unit.
Local media identified the deceased as a 68-year-old electrician named Chu Kwok-ying, and a 59-year-old construction worker from Kaiping called Zhou Guanyu.
According to Apple Daily, Chu and Zhou were paying HK$4,000 and HK$3,200 (US$510 and US$408) respectively — excluding water bills — for subdivided units in a sixth-floor apartment. Chu moved in half a year ago, while Zhou had been living there for about four to five years.
After an initial investigation, police believed Chu’s death was suicide, although no suicide note was found at the scene.
Fire services put out the blaze after about 30 minutes. Inside, they found Zhou’s body in Chu’s room. There wounds on Zhou’s face, head, and back, which were believed to have been caused by a knife and a hard object.
Evidence seized from the flat yesterday afternoon included a broom tangled in wire, a screwdriver and a hammer.
Emergency services also believe the cause of the fire was suspicious, as it started from Zhou’s room.
Zhou’s wife told Ming Pao that she was visiting family in the city of Kaiping in Guangzhou at the time of the incident, and rushed back to Hong Kong after hearing about the tragedy. The couple have two sons — aged 24 and 26 — living in Guangdong, and Zhou was applying for his wife and younger son to settle in Hong Kong.
The family travelled to Hainan last week, with Zhou returning to Hong Kong on Sunday, while the rest of the family stayed in the mainland.
Local media reports that Zhou migrated to Hong Kong seven years ago, and that his wife sometimes stayed in the flat, but most of the time she stays in the family home in Kaiping.
She told the Ming Pao that her husband got along with his neighbours, and that he happily shared the water bill — HK$240 (US$31) every four months, meaning HK$80 (US$10) per person — with two other tenants.
However, she added that her husband began fighting with another tenant, Chu, because the water bill increased to about HK$2,000 (US$255) for one quarter shortly after moved in. Chu reportedly was only willing to contribute about HK$30 (US$4), saying that the remaining amount should be paid by the other tenants.
Apple Daily said the complaint about the water bill stemmed from the fact that Chu would often leave the tap running whenever he used the toilet, and even after others turned the tap off, he would turn it back on again, saying that he wanted “drinking water.”
On.cc also reported that Chu had a lot of financial difficulties given that his work as an electrician was unstable.
In the days prior to the incident, Chu also got into an argument with the subdivided apartment’s 55-year-old landlady, surnamed Cheung, when he tried to negotiate a reduction in rent and get his deposit back. She refused, and on Monday, the day of the incident, Cheung called the police twice.
Local media reported that around the time of the tragedy, two of the other tenants moved out, leaving Chu and Zhou on their own.