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Why the Gruesome Hello Kitty Murder Shocked Hong Kong - and Still Horrifies the World
Hong Kong skyline photo by Photo by Brayden Law from Pexels
Hong Kong skyline photo by Photo by Brayden Law from Pexels
Pop Culture

Why the Gruesome Hello Kitty Murder Shocked Hong Kong - and Still Horrifies the World

The details of the torture, death and dismemberment of a young woman in Hong Kong -- known as the Hello Kitty murder -- still manages to shock, more than two decades later.

Humans have a macabre, yet irresistible, tendency to attach nicknames to horrific criminal cases. There’s the Black Dahlia murder, the Taliesin Massacre, the Zodiac Killer. The list of luridly named crimes and criminals goes on. Perhaps it's as simple as writing a catchy headline, or a need to blunt the horror of the true crime. Regardless, what’s beyond question is that one gruesome murder in 1999 shocked the people of Hong Kong, and the world. And its descriptive name is as horrific as it is grimly accurate: the Hello Kitty murder.

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Before we get into the details of the Hello Kitty murder, be warned. This was grisly affair. So, if you're bothered by dark topics, you may want to look away..


 The Hello Kitty Victim: Fan Man-yee

Fan Man-yee, the Hello Kitty murder victim
Fan Man-yee

Fan Man-yee was only 23 at the time of her death in 1999. And none of those 23 years had been easy. Fan Man-yee was abandoned as a child by her family, and raised in a Hong Kong orphanage.

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She aged out of the orphanage at 15, and turned to sex work to survive. A drug addict, Fan ended up in an abusive marriage with a client, with whom she had a child. Despite the many challenges, Fan cleaned up, left her husband, quit prostitution, and found a job as a nightclub hostess. She hoped to earn a living so she could care for her son.

Unfortunately, the the Romance Villa was a gathering place for the worst of the worst in Hong Kong. Guests included everyday criminals, drug addicts, dealers, and members of the powerful Chinese crime syndicate, The Triads.

Fan Man-yee’s interactions with one member, Chan Man-lok, led to her awful suffering and gruesome death.

The Hello Kitty Murderers: Three Men and a Minor

Chan Man-lok
Chan Man-lok

Her fate was sealed when Fan stole the wallet of Chan Man-lok, a 34-year-old drug dealer and pimp, with whom she had a sexual relationship. The theft of the wallet, containing the equivalent of $500 USD, was quickly realized by its owner. Fan returned the wallet, but Chan insisted she pay an exorbitant penalty fee. However, Fan had no way to pay the amount Chan demanded. Thus, sought other means to exact his “fee.”

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With two associates, 27-year-old Leung Shing-cho and 21-year-old Leung Wai-lun, and Chan's 14-year-old "girlfriend," Ah Fong, he kidnapped Fan Man-yee and stashed her in a Hong Kong apartment.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Fan suffered in abject misery at the hands of these four people.

The Torture and Killing of Fan Man-yee

Hello Kitty mermaid doll
The Hello Kitty mermaid doll

Chan initially planned to claim his penalty fee by forcing Fan back into prostitution. However, he and his accomplices instead tortured the young woman, apparently for no other reason than perverse enjoyment. They badly burned Fan's feet with molten plastic to hamper her ability to escape. Over the course of a month, the three men and the 14-year-old girl beat, cut, burned and otherwise tortured Fan. (Ah Fong was apparently a less-active participant in the abuse, but she later admitted to taking a role at times.)

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Fan was sometimes left hanging from the ceiling for hours, treated like a literal punching bag. She was soiled with urine and excrement, force-fed drugs, and sexually assaulted countless times. And after about a month of this unthinkable abuse, Fan died as a result of the trauma. Soon, she became known widely as the Hello Kitty murder victim.

Chan and his accomplices covered up their crime with the same grim attachment. The victim’s body was sawed apart in a bathtub, and then the group boiled her body parts. Some of the pieces were fed to stray dogs, and others thrown into the trash. They boiled the flesh from Fan’s skull, and then stitched it inside of a Hello Kitty mermaid doll. That, of course, is how the horrific crime earned its nickname.

The Hello Kitty Murder Trial

If not for feelings of guilt that plagued 14-year-old Ah Fong, we might never have known Fan Man-yee's grime fate. But the teenager was tormented by remorse, and believed she was haunted by the dead woman's ghost. That brought her to a Hong Kong police station to confess to the crimes.

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The three men were arrested, and then prosecuted in 2000, during a six-week trial. They were found guilty, but not of murder. They were instead convicted of manslaughter, as well as lesser crimes, such as false imprisonment and preventing lawful burial. That's because the jury found that, without more of Fan's remains, her precise cause of death couldn't be determined. She could have died from a drug overdose or starvation, for all jurors knew.

Chan Man-lo, Leung Shing-cho and Leung Wai-lun were sentenced in 2000 to life in prison. However, Leung successfully appealed his conviction, and was subsequently sentenced to 18 years after pleading guilty in retrial. He was released from prison in 2011.

Because of her age, and her testimony in the Hello Kitty murder trial, Ah Fong was granted immunity. She never faced punishment

Hello Kitty Murder Defendant Returns to the News in 2022

If you thought years in prison for his role in the Hello Kitty murder might reform Leung Wai-lun, think again. In August 2022, more than a decade after his release, Leung was sentenced to 12 months in jail. This time, it was for indecent contact with the 10-year-old daughter of a friend.

Leung Wai-lun, now 48, is again behind bars, more than two decades after the torture and death of Fan Man-yee.

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