Four people involved in the murder of businessman Nelson Cheung (65), and the assault and robbery of his wife Winnie who was 57 at the time of the attack in Randalstown in 2015 have today been sentenced at Laganside Crown Court.
Virgilio Correia, known locally as Marty Correia, 35, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for murder. He received a further 12 years for wounding with intent and 12 years for robbery to run concurrently.
Christopher Menaul, 28, was sentenced to nine years in prison for murder. He received a further 12 years for wounding with intent and 12 years for robbery to run concurrently.
Gary Thompson, 34, was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbery. He received a further three years for assisting offenders and three years for attempting to pervert the course of justice, all to run concurrently.
His partner Lisa Thompson, 35, was sentenced to two years suspended sentence for handling stolen goods and a further two years suspended sentence for assisting offenders and two years suspended sentence for attempting to pervert the course of justice, all to run concurrently.
Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan, from PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, said: “These four individuals were involved in the vicious murder of Nelson Cheung in varying degrees but all of them have contributed to destroying the life of this hardworking couple.
“Mr Cheung and his wife Winnie, who have three grown up children, moved to Northern Ireland in 2003 and ran their own restaurant in Randalstown. The couple worked seven days a week with very little time off as they were so committed to their business.
“However, this all came to a devastating end on January 8, 2015 when Virgilio Correia and Christopher Menaul forced their vehicle off the road at around 12:10am after finishing work.
“Winnie, who was driving, was concerned that they were being followed as this had happened previously. She slowed down on the Caddy Road to allow the vehicle behind to pass but instead the vehicle pulled alongside their car, ramming them off the road.
“When Mr Cheung got out of the passenger side, Virgilio Correia stabbed him 18 times while demanding money. Meanwhile, Christopher Menaul attacked Winnie Cheung as she sat in the driver’s seat. He reached in from the front passenger door and pulled her from the car by her hair. During the incident Mrs Cheung sustained an injury to her head which required staples and a stab wound to her hand. This caused life changing injuries to her hand and as a result she can no longer work.
“The two men stole Winnie’s handbag which contained an IPad, IPhone, a purse that contained three bank cards, around £200 cash, bank statements and a book containing pin numbers and passwords for accounts before they fled the scene in Correia’s car which was parked to the rear of the Nelson’s jeep.
“Winnie tried to help save her husband and also ran to nearby houses to call for police help, but tragically, Nelson died at the scene as a result of the stab wounds.”
DCI Corrigan added: “The break for the investigation team came when it was found that an attempt had been made to purchase a hot tub from Ebay, using a credit card stolen in the robbery. This online attempted transaction was made within one hour of Mr Cheung’s death. Our enquiries into this online activity then led us to the home address of Gary and Lisa Thompson.
“Detectives were able to piece together the movements of the four people involved directly before and after the murder including the fact Virgilio Correia and Christopher Menaul had followed the Cheungs the previous night also in a ‘dry run’.
“CCTV evidence also showed Virgilio Correia and Christopher Menaul calling at the home of Gary and Lisa Thompson at Cunningham Way in Antrim at around 9:40pm on January 7, where they remained for approximately one hour. We believe this was when plans for the robbery were finalised.
“Correia and Menaul then leave together at 10:35pm in Correia’s VW Golf. One minute later, Lisa Thompson leaves the house in her Vauxhall Astra and collects partner Gary Thompson from Templepatrick.
“Our examination of telephone records show a call from Correia’s phone to Gary Thompson at 11:31pm on January 7 while CCTV footage for this time showed Correia’s vehicle parked close to Mr Cheung’s restaurant on Main Street, Randalstown.
“At 12:08am on January 8, Correia phones Gary Thompson’s phone again. This is believed to be the call to say they are on their way back and they arrive at Gary Thompson’s home 15 minutes later. They are in the house for approximately 20 minutes before returning to the car and remove items including a bin bag – the Cheungs’ belongings.
“Mrs Cheung’s blood was subsequently found in this vehicle and on various items belonging to the accused.”
DCI Corrigan concluded: “This was a particularly brutal and senseless attack on a defenceless couple who were returning home after a hard day’s work. All police enquires lead us to believe that the motivation behind this horrendous crime was to pay off drugs debts.
“Nelson died as a result and Winnie’s life has been destroyed - she left Northern Ireland to return to family in Hong Kong within days of her husband’s murder. She can no longer work due to her injury and also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress.”