Millionaire businessman Robert Ekaireb found guilty of murdering pregnant wife Li Hua Cao at Hampstead home
PUBLISHED: 11:38 19 December 2013 | UPDATED: 13:04 19 December 2013
A millionaire businessman is facing life behind bars after he was today convicted of murdering his pregnant lapdancer wife seven years ago.
Obsessive property and jewellery tycoon Robert Ekaireb, 39, murdered his Chinese bride Li Hua Cao, 27, just three months into their marriage and then disposed of her body without a trace.
Ekaireb went partying at a West End nightclub after carrying out the murder in October 2006.
He then had their luxury flat in Pavilion Court on the gated Mount Vernon estate, in Frognal Rise, Hampstead, redecorated and recarpeted the next day.
Ekaireb, who denied murder, was convicted after a two month trial at the Old Bailey and will be sentenced on January 7.
The trial heard the property tycoon, of Corrigan Close, Hendon, had admitted to his psychologist a month before Ms Cao vanished that he had thought about stabbing her to death and felt unsafe with his own anger.
Baljit Ubhey, CPS London chief crown prosecutor, said: “After seven years of deception and denial Robert Ekaireb has now been brought to justice for the murder of Li Hua Cao. Ekaireb wove a web of lies in order to deflect suspicion away from him and he has continued to deny any involvement in Li Hua’s murder.
“I hope that this conviction today can provide some small comfort to Li Hua’s family and allow them a degree of closure to this lengthy and distressing ordeal.
“Li Hua was pregnant when she disappeared on October 23 2006 and since then she has not been seen or heard from. There are significant challenges with cases where the prosecution must prove a murder in the absence of a victim’s body, but following extensive proof of life enquires – which included work in Ireland, China, Japan and Europe – no evidence was found to indicate that she was alive after that date. With the results of these enquiries, we argued in court that all the evidence pointed towards the fact that Li Hua was no longer alive and had been murdered by her husband.
“We are grateful to the members of the victim’s family who travelled from China to support this prosecution and give evidence. Without the evidence of all the witnesses in this case Ekaireb would not have been brought to justice.
“Ekaireb has now been convicted and he will finally have to face the consequences of his actions.”
Ms Cao, who had been Ekaireb’s ‘private dancer’, was 22 weeks pregnant when she vanished in October 2006.
Ekaireb, who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, covered up the killing so perfectly police have not been able to find the body or any forensic evidence of the murder.
The Old Bailey heard Ekaireb was controlling and violent towards his wife, and prone to flying into jealous rages about her past.
She tried to leave him six times before he killed her but returned each time when Ekaireb deluged her with apologetic texts and calls.
The couple met in 2005 when Ekaireb paid Ms Cao£270 for private lapdances at a club in Cork, Ireland.
After a whirlwind romance, they married in China and with Ms Cao already pregnant, they set up home together in August 2006.
But the marriage was fraught with problems, with Ekaireb constantly bringing up her lap-dancing past and flying into jealous rages.
Ekaireb, who has a multi-million pound property portfolio, including several in Hampstead, and a jewellery business in Hatton Gardens, repeatedly accused his wife of cheating on him, despite the fact he was sleeping around himself.
He continued to see Slovakian ex-lover Martina Kamenistiakova while dating Ms Cao, and also had a relationship with a woman who lived in his apartment block, the court heard.
During their brief marriage, Ekaireb was so paranoid that his wife was cheating on him that he hired a private investigator to tail her and wanted her to take a lie detector test.
Police were called on August 28, 2006, after Ekaireb assaulted Ms Cao on the way home from a dinner date.
She was found cowering in East Finchley Food and Wine off licence with cuts and grazes to both arms, while Ekaireb was carrying a knife at the time.
Ms Cao claimed that Ekaireb pushed her to the ground in a blazing row about her past and his habit of smoking in the car while she was pregnant.
But Ekaireb insisted he was overjoyed at impending fatherhood, and claimed he would have done anything to protect her and their unborn child.
The court heard Ekaireb’s bizarre behaviour includes constantly scribbling notebooks full of jottings, sometimes going through up to 50 biros a day.
He also cannot bear to unpack a suitcase when he returns from holiday, and still has bags from Paris, Venice, Prague and two from EuroDisney that have never been opened.
Ekaireb left the three-bedroom flat he shared with Ms Kamenistiakova like a “time capsule” when their affair ended.
When police entered in February last year it had been locked and untouched with plates of food as Ekaireb had left them six years before.
He could have collected around £300,000 in rent during that time.
Ms Cao had tired of Ekaireb’s suffocating behaviour and repeatedly tried to leave him.
She had walked out weeks before she died, but Ekaireb always pleaded with her to come back and promised he would mend his ways.
“Following him begging her to return and to mend his ways, she did return to him, a decision that was ultimately to cost her life,” said prosecutor Brian Altman QC.
“She disappeared from the home she shared with the defendant never to be seen or heard from again by anyone.”
Ms Cao’s bank accounts were never touched again after she vanished on Monday 23 October 2006.
There is also no record of her ever giving birth to her baby.
Ekaireb claimed he did not go to the police when she vanished because she had told him not to and he thought she had gone home to China.
Ms Cao was finally reported missing by her brother in February 2007.
The police investigation into her disappearance was re-opened in 2010, leading to raids on the luxury one-bed apartment at 9 Pavilion Court in the Mount Vernon complex, a private gated community in Hampstead, north London, where Ekaireb lived with Ms Cao.
Police tore the flat apart but could not find a single bloodstain.