May 18 2013 Latest news:
by Josh Pettitt
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
A Chinese dissident serving life for murdering an eccentric author in Hampstead is challenging the fairness of his trial at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Wang Yam was convicted of battering reclusive Allan Chappelow, 86, to death at his £4million home in Downshire Hill. Yam was also found guilty of cloning Mr Chappelow’s identity and plundering his bank accounts.
The 51-year-old, who had lived with his girlfriend at a flat in Denning Road in Hampstead, was given a life sentence at the Old Bailey in January 2009.
Mr Chappelow, who penned two biographies of playwright George Bernard Shaw, was found dead and buried under a metre-high pile of papers in a room filled with rotting furniture, after suffering massive head injuries in 2006.
Yam failed to overturn his conviction on appeal in 2010 but launched a challenge at the Strasbourg court on Friday (January 11).
He has enlisted the services of celebrated barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, who has fought landmark cases in constitutional, criminal and media law.
Mr Robertson will argue the secrecy that surrounded his trial meant Yam never received a fair hearing.
The original defence case was held behind closed doors for national security reasons and to ensure the administration of justice.
A court order was imposed at the time, banning speculation over matters heard in private.
Mr Chappelow was repeatedly hit over the head in May 2006 and his body was found weeks later in the house he had rarely left since he was 14.
He had wounds to his head, neck and body and possible signs of torture. Candle wax was found on his body and his jumper was singed.
Yam, a financial adviser, left China after the government crushed the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising.
He has always denied the murder, blaming gangsters.
No forensic evidence was gathered from either the victim’s home or Yam’s flat to link him to scene, but the prosecutor at the time revealed extensive circumstantial evidence against him.
Before the European Court, Yam’s high-powered legal team claimed the trial violated Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights - which enshrines the right to a fair hearing.
His lawyers argued that an open trial may have spurred further witnesses to come forward.
They argue Yam was convicted on circumstantial evidence and that voice identification evidence had prejudiced the jury, making the conviction unsafe.
The European Court of Human Rights is being asked to consider whether Yam’s trial, taken as a whole, but particularly focusing on the secrecy issue, could be described as fair under Article 6.
The court will rule on Yam’s legal challenge at a later date.