A West Vancouver man accused of second-degree murder in the killing of his wife’s cousin told a police officer that he shot the 42-year-old millionaire at close range in the driveway of their British Properties mansion after the two men got into a fight over the accused’s daughter.
Li Zhao, 56, is on trial in B.C. Supreme Court before Justice Terence Schultes, for murdering Gang Yuan, a wealthy businessman, and interfering with human remains by chopping up Yuan’s body into over 100 pieces.
In court Thursday, Crown prosecutors played a videotaped statement given by Zhao to a Richmond RCMP officer in an interview room at the Vancouver Police Department on May 3, 2015, the same day Zhao was arrested.
In the videotape, Zhao chatted with the officer in Mandarin about his partnership with Yuan in a Saskatchewan agricultural business before describing what led to a fight between the two men at the West Vancouver house where they both lived on May 2, 2015.
In an English translation of the videotaped statement provided to the court, Zhao described Yuan as being “bad-tempered” and “very rough, very rough. He fought with people.”
Zhao added Yuan had “tons of girlfriends. Almost a different one every day,” but added, “he was not responsible to his girlfriends after he had fun with them. And often, often hit them.”
In the statement, Zhao described several women who had had children with Yuan, who he said Yuan had treated badly.
On the afternoon of May 2, the two men were discussing a gun stand that Zhao hoped to market for hunting rifles when Yuan suggested he’d give Zhao 50 percent of a joint venture company if he could marry Zhao’s daughter.
“I thought he was joking,” said Zhao in the statement. “I said this is a bad joke. I saw that he was serious then I got mad.”
Zhao said he told Yuan, “You’re not a person, you’re a beast.”
A fight broke out, and Yuan hit him, said Zhao, then Zhao grabbed a hammer.
“I struck him,” said Zhao, in the foot and the head.
Zhao said the two men wrestled over the hammer. In the end, Yuan grabbed the hammer from him, said Zhao, and Zhao ran outside on to the driveway.
Yuan came after him with the hammer, said Zhao, but he ducked and ran back “grabbed the gun and loaded the bullets.
“Then I pointed at him. I said don’t move, don’t move I’m telling you.”
Zhao said Yuan flung the hammer at him but missed.
“Then I was scared. I opened fire,” he said. “After the shot, after the first shot, he lifted his head and his hand high up. I was scared and shot the second time.”
Zhao said Yuan lay on the driveway not moving after that.
“He stopped moving, so I was confused. I thought, how did this happen. This is trouble. I thought I should quickly clean it up.”
The videotaped statement was played Thursday within a voir dire, a legal procedure held to determine if evidence should be admitted during the trial.
Defence lawyer Ian Donaldson has told Schultes he will argue that the statement should not be admitted.
At the beginning of the statement Zhao told the Richmond RCMP officer that he was cold and hungry, adding he had not been given food all day. “I feel sick, feeling really dizzy,” Zhao told Yung.
Yung responded by asking Zhao what he’d like to eat and asking that noodle soup be brought to the interview room.
At another point in the interview Zhao said, “Today my mind, my mind is confused. Perhaps I’ve a fever or something.”
Earlier in the week, Schultes lifted a publication ban on the voir dire, ruling that because the trial is being held before a judge alone, without a jury, there is no risk of jeopardizing Zhao’s right to a fair trial.
The trial continues.