Three men and a woman have been remanded in custody on charges relating to the murder of Randalstown businessman Nelson Cheung.
The 65-year-old Chinese takeaway owner was stabbed 17 times in what Ballymena Magistrates Court heard described as a “savage and brutal” attack, at Caddy Road, on January 8.
Augusto Fernando Virgilio Correia (33), a welder, from Grant Avenue, Randalstown; Christopher David Menaul (25), unemployed of Barra Street, Antrim; and Gary William Thompson (32), an engineer, of Cunningham Way, Antrim, are all accused of the murder of Mr Cheung and the attempted murder of his wife Winnie.
They are further charged with attempting to rob Mr Cheung of cash and with robbing Mrs Cheung of a handbag, iPad, iPhone, £200 in cash and bank cards.
Menaul faces a further charge of burglary at a property in Randalstown a few days before Mr Cheung’s murder.
Gary Thompson’s estranged wife, Lisa Thompson (32), a care assistant, of Cunningham Way, is accused of handling a stolen iPhone and with perverting the course of justice by giving a false account to police regarding Gary Thompson’s movements.
A PSNI detective inspector told the court that Mr and Mrs Cheung had been returning home from the Chinese restaurant they own in Randalstown in their Kia Sorrento jeep when they believed they were being followed by another vehicle.
Mrs Cheung slowed down and the vehicle behind collided with it, after which two of the occupants approached the Cheungs’ vehicle, shouting: “Give us the money”.
The detective inspector said Mr Cheung was stabbed a total of 17 times while another of the men grabbed Mrs Cheung by the hair. She also received a stab wound to her hand which damaged an artery, leading to heavy bleeding.
She was able to break free and run to seek assistance before returning to find her husband, the officer added.
The DI also said that police believed a silver Volkswagen Golf had been involved in the incident was observed at Cunningham Way a short time after the incident, while a mobile phone belonging to Gary Thompson was found to have been stolen from Mrs Cheung’s handbag.
Ciaran Shiels, representing Menaul, said that his client had said under caution that he was present in a Volkswagen Golf vehicle in which Mrs Cheung’s blood was discovered.
He said Menaul had also stated during police interview that he did not murder anyone and that at no time did he have a knife in his possession and that he had stated he had been in the Randalstown area with his girlfriend.
Menaul had also been questioned about a key for a Seat Toledo - used to stop the deceased on the Caddy Road - and a watch taken during the earlier burglary of a house at Magheralane Road. The watch was found hidden under a boiler at Menaul’s home, with Mr Shiels stating that the defendant had made the case he had been given the watch by the defendant Correia.
Mr Shiels said it was conceded that the burglary is connected to the murder investigation and made no application for bail on behalf of his client.
Applying for bail on behalf of Lisa Thompson, barrister Neil Moore said that his client faced “much less serious charges” than her co-accused.
He said Lisa Thompson had lied to police about her estranged husband being in the Cunningham Way area as he had been precluded from being there as part of his bail conditions in a different case.
Mr Moore, in response to objections from the police officer, said the chances of Lisa Thompson absconding are “nil” as all her family ties are in the Antrim area.
Patrick Madden, representing Gary Thompson, said his client “strenuously denies” the charges, stating that police could not place his client at the scene of the murder.
Deputy District Judge Joe Rice refused bail and remanded the three defendants in custody to appear again at Antrim Magistrates Court on February 10.
The judge said: “This was a crime designed to strike terror and fear into the business and Chinese communities in the Randalstown area and under no circumstances must that ever be allowed to succeed.”
A short time later Correia appeared separately in the dock, at the request of his barrister Michael Smyth, who said that his client had been the subject of threats from his co-accused.
He said that Correia’s case is that he was acting “under duress” from the others.
Mr Smyth made no application for bail on behalf of Correia but asked that his client be remanded to a different court or date from his co-accused.
The judge refused this request, stating: “It should be kept together.” Corriea was remanded in custody until February 10 at Antrim.