‘I was suicidal after wife walked out’ says Hampstead businessman accused of her murder

Robert Ekaireb

Robert Ekaireb - Credit: CENTRAL NEWS

A wealthy businessman accused of murdering his lap dancer wife has told a court the last words he said to her were “See you in a couple of days then”.

Li Hau Cao vanished in 2006

Li Hau Cao vanished in 2006 - Credit: Archant

Robert Ekaireb, 38, is accused of killing his 27-year-old wife Li Hua Cao seven years ago and disposing of her body so perfectly that no trace of her has ever been found.

But he insisted that he was suicidal when she left as she had done many times before, the Old Bailey heard last week.

The couple moved into a luxury one bedroom apartment at the Mount Vernon complex, a private gated community in Hampstead, in August 2006 after their marriage in China.

But Ekaireb told the court how Li Hua moved out twice within a fortnight.

By the time she left for the last time on October 23, 2006, Ekaireb said she had walked out half a dozen times.

The businessman, who has substantial property interests and owned his own Hatton Garden jewellery shop, said on the evening she left his wife had been speaking to her family in China on the phone.

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When asked what they had been talking about he claimed his wife snapped, “Not your business”.

He said: “She already had a big suitcase packed. She then packed what I would describe as a flight bag - or carry on baggage.

“I am sure I said to her: ‘You’re not leaving again are you?’

“The only thing I member her saying was: ‘My family needs me’.

“I stood in front of the door when she had finished packing.

“She told me if I didn’t move she would call the police.”

His barrister Michael Wolkind, QC, asked Ekaireb if he had seen his wife since. He replied, “No”.

He was then asked if his wife had left the flat “freely of her own choice”.

“Yes,” said Ekaireb. “It was probably the fifth or sixth occasion she had left since the return to the UK after the wedding.”

He added that he was “very depressed” when she left but did not report his wife missing because she had warned him not to go to the police when she vanished previously.

“She told me after that time that if I did report her missing, that if I ever did that again, I would never see her again,” he said.

But Ekaireb did try and contact his wife’s former friends to see if she had a second phone number without success, he said.

Ekaireb met his wife at a lap dancing club in Cork in November 2005.

But the court heard the marriage was fraught with difficulty and Ekaireb claimed his wife was bored shortly after they moved into the marital home due to his obsessive compulsive disorder.

“I have dinner at set times, watch the same TV programmes got to sleep at roughly the same times,” he said. “I didn’t think that was exciting for her which I can understand.”

But Ekaireb insisted he was overjoyed when his wife fell pregnant and would have done anything to protect her and their unborn child.

Li Hau was finally reported missing by her brother in February 2007 but no evidence has been found that she is alive.

Ekaireb, of Corrigan Close, Hendon, denies murder.

The trial continues.