British banker Rurik Jutting who is accused of murdering two Indonesian women in his upscale Hong Kong apartment filmed the attacks on his iPhone, a court heard today, the first day of his trial.
Jutting, 31, had earlier today pleaded “not guilty” to two counts of murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He instead pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The prosecution rejected the lesser plea and jury selection began.
As judge Michael Stuart-Moore briefed the jury pool at the High Court, he warned them of the graphic nature of the evidence.
He said that Jutting “recorded on his iPhone much of what he did to those people”, and described the footage as “very shocking indeed”.
Seneng Mujiasih and Sumarti Ningsih, both in their 20s, were found dead in Jutting’s flat in the early hours of November 1, 2014, after he called police to the scene.
Mujiasih was found naked and with knife wounds to her legs and buttocks, while the decaying body of Ningsih was found hours later in a suitcase on the balcony, according to initial police reports.
Jutting, a former securities trader at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, faces a three-week jury trial and life in prison if convicted on the murder charges.
The killings shocked the city of seven million - typically regarded as safe and known for its glitzy skyscrapers - and shone a spotlight on the seedy underbelly of the financial hub.
Jutting was deemed fit to stand trial following psychiatric tests and is being held at a maximum security prison.
Clean-shaven and wearing a dark-blue shirt, Jutting calmly entered his official plea for the first time today, saying: “Not guilty to murder by reason of diminished responsibility, but guilty to manslaughter”.
He pleaded guilty to a third charge of preventing the burial of a body.
Outside the court, a small group of protesters from Indonesian migrant worker organisations called for a “speedy and fair trial” and for compensation for the victims’ families.
It is the highest-profile murder case to hit the Hong Kong courts since American Nancy Kissel was accused of killing her banker husband in 2003.
Dubbed the “milkshake murderer”, Kissel was convicted of drugging her husband - a senior executive at Merrill Lynch - with a sedative-laced strawberry drink before clubbing him to death with a lead ornament at their luxury home.
Hong Kong judge warns of “torture” images as British banker’s trial begins
A Hong Kong judge warned jurors that they will have to view video filmed by former British banker Rurik Jutting of the torture and vicious killing of two Indonesian women he is accused of murdering as the trial got under way on Monday.
Jutting, who studied at Cambridge University and Winchester College, one of Britain’s most prestigious private schools, pleaded not guilty to murder on grounds of “diminished responsibility”. He was arrested two years ago after the victims’ bodies were found in his luxury high rise apartment.
The 31-year-old pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, and to a third charge of preventing lawful burial of a body.
During the jury selection, Deputy High Court Judge Michael Stuart-Moore warned potential jurors that if they were unable to cope with viewing extreme violence they should not take part.
“There is a particularly horrifying aspect of the case.
One of the victims was subject to extreme cruelty and violence,” the judge said, explaining that a number of gruesome, and extreme colour photographs could be presented during the trial.
“The defendant even recorded on his IPhone the torture inflicted on the first victim before she died.”
Jutting filmed a series of videos including one showing the first killing, while in other videos he talks about his plans for the second, according to a court fact sheet.
The judge said the defence and prosecution were largely in agreement over the physical evidence, but the dispute may lie in psychiatric and psychological evidence provided by the defence to determine whether it was a case of murder or manslaughter.
Looking trim and dressed in a dark blue shirt, Jutting was clean shaven with short cut hair, in stark contrast to his initial court appearances when he looked heavily overweight and wore a thick dark beard.
The lurid nature of the case has cast a harsh light on the seamy side of Hong Kong, offering an insight into how some wealthy professionals binge on sex, drugs and alcohol.
Jutting who previously worked at Bank of America Corp in Hong Kong, was accused of murder in October 2014 after police found the bodies of Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 26, in his apartment. Both women’s throats were slit.
Ningsih’s remains were discovered inside a suitcase on his balcony and the body of Mujiasih was found lying inside with wounds to her neck and buttocks, authorities said.
“HIGHLY GRAPHIC” VIDEO
Before the jury selection, Jutting’s barrister Tim Owen explained the argument for diminished responsibility was based on the grounds of a personality disorder.
Deputy High Court Judge Stuart-Moore said “there isn’t a disease here, it is a personality disorder.”
Prosecutor John Reading stated that psychopathic behaviour was not a reason for diminished responsibility, setting up the arguments both parties will make during the trial.
The jury has to decide if it is a case of murder or manslaughter. On Tuesday, they will view 30 minutes of “highly graphic” video that will not be viewable for the public in the courtroom, though the sound will be audible.
The court fact sheet said Ningsih was tortured for three days using Jutting’s belt, sex toys, a pair of pliers and his fists. He eventually killed her in the bathroom, cutting her throat with a serrated-edged knife.
In video footage Jutting talked about watching porn including depicting violence and turning his fantasies into realities. He also talked about whether to turn himself in or hide the body and fly to Britain.
Investigators also found cocaine at his apartment, according to the fact sheet.
“I definitely could not have done that without cocaine,” it quoted Jutting as telling investigators during interviews.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, still retains a British legal system after being handed back to China in 1997. Jutting’s case is being tried in English.
Jutting was found fit to plea after undergoing psychiatric assessment at the end of 2014 after being charged for the double murder.
Bank of America has previously said Jutting was an employee but it has not said why he left or given any time frame.
The case is being closely watched by Hong Kong’s 300,000-strong migrant domestic helpers community, many of whom come from Indonesia and the Philippines. Outside the High Court, about a dozen of their representatives held placards reading “Justice for Wanchai Murder Victim” and “Stop Violence”.