Hampstead property developer Robert Ekaireb was ‘zombified’ after wife’s disappearance, murder trial hears

Robert Ekaireb

Robert Ekaireb - Credit: CENTRAL NEWS

A wealthy property developer accused of murdering his pregnant wife and disposing of her body was seen in a “zombified state” in the days after her disappearance, a court has heard.

Li Hua Cao disappeared in 2006.

Li Hua Cao disappeared in 2006. - Credit: Archant

Robert Ekaireb, 38, who is alleged to have killed former lapdancer Li Hua Cao, 27, did not speak or even look at a porter who approached him outside his luxury Hampstead flat in the wake of his wife’s disappearance in October 2006, a jury at the Old Bailey heard this week.

Richard Bailey, a former porter at the Mount Vernon estate, in Frognal Rise, Hampstead, described seeing Ekaireb in a “most unusual” state being driven out of the gated estate by his father one evening.

He said: “It’s something I couldn’t forget. I went over to the vehicle and I went to speak through the window to Robert and his father. Robert was just sat staring straight ahead and he didn’t look like he was with it.

“He looked in a zombified state. I just spoke to his father, Robert didn’t say a word.”

Mr Bailey said Ekaireb, whose family owned six flats on the Mount Vernon estate, “came across as a very nice chap” but had a “nasty temper on him”.

He told the court about a time an estate agent called him asking if Ekaireb was sub-letting a property he owned on the Mount Vernon estate, which he confirmed was true.

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Mr Bailey later received a call from Ekaireb who had spoken to the estate agent and was furious that the porter had disclosed the information.

“Oh my god, the phone line was red hot,” Mr Bailey told the court. “He was absolutely fuming with rage.”

Addressing Mr Bailey’s comments about Ekaireb’s “zombified state”, Michael Wolkind, defending, said: “Did you realise he was going through a period where he was very depressed? Did you know how many times the Chinese lady had left him before?”

Ekaireb claims Ms Cao, who was born in China, had packed her bags and left him for a better life – but she has not been seen alive since October 23, 2006.

The couple, who lived in a luxury apartment in Pavilion Court, one of three blocks on the Mount Vernon estate, started a whirlwind romance after meeting at a lapdancing club in Ireland in late 2005 and married on October 4, 2006.

It is alleged he murdered her seven years ago following the breakdown of their relationship as a result of his jealousy and obsessive-compulsive personality.

Before meeting Ms Cao, the court heard Ekaireb was involved in two relationships with Russian women that both ended abruptly.

Mr Bailey said Ms Cao had lived on the estate for a “matter of weeks” before she disappeared, at which point Ekaireb went to live with his parents.

The court was also read a statement made to police by former Mount Vernon porter Ken Rowan, who has since died.

He said: “I suddenly stopped seeing [Ms Cao] and never saw her again. It was like one day she was here and gone the next. I do think that Robert told me she had gone. I took this to mean she had left the area.”

Ekaireb, of Corrigan Close, Hendon, denies murder. The trial continues.