Four people sentenced in relation to Nelson Cheung's murder

Four people sentenced in relation to Nelson Cheung’s murder

Four people involved in the murder of businessman Nelson Cheung (65), and the assault and robbery of his wife Winnie who was 57 at the time of the attack in Randalstown in 2015 have today been sentenced at Laganside Crown Court.

Virgilio Correia, known locally as Marty Correia, 35, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for murder.  He received a further 12 years for wounding with intent and 12 years for robbery to run concurrently.

Christopher Menaul, 28, was sentenced to 9 years in prison for murder.  He received a further 12 years for wounding with intent and 12 years for robbery to run concurrently.

Gary Thompson, 34, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for robbery.  He received a further 3 years for assisting offenders and 3 years for attempting to pervert the course of justice, all to run concurrently.

His partner Lisa Thompson, 35, was sentenced to 2 years suspended sentence for handling stolen goods and a further 2 years suspended sentence for assisting offenders and 2 years suspended sentence for attempting to pervert the course of justice, all to run concurrently.

Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan, from PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, said: “These four individuals were involved in the vicious murder of Nelson Cheung in varying degrees but all of them have contributed to destroying the life of this hardworking couple.

“Mr Cheung and his wife Winnie, who have 3 grown up children, moved to Northern Ireland in 2003 and ran their own restaurant in Randalstown. The couple worked 7 days a week with very little time off as they were so committed to their business.

“However, this all came to a devastating end on January 8, 2015 when Virgilio Correia and Christopher Menaul forced their vehicle off the road at around 12:10am after finishing work. Winnie, who was driving, was concerned that they were being followed as this had happened previously. She slowed down on the Caddy Road to allow the vehicle behind to pass but instead the vehicle pulled alongside their car, ramming them off the road.

“When Mr Cheung got out of the passenger side, Virgilio Correia stabbed him 18 times while demanding money. Meanwhile, Christopher Menaul attacked Winnie Cheung as she sat in the driver’s seat. He reached in from the front passenger door and pulled her from the car by her hair. During the incident Mrs Cheung sustained an injury to her head which required staples and a stab wound to her hand her. This caused life changing injuries to her hand and as a result she can no longer work.

“The two men stole Winnie’s handbag which contained an IPad, IPhone, a purse that contained 3 bank cards, around £200 cash, bank statements and a book containing pin numbers and passwords for accounts before they fled the scene in Correia’s car which was parked to the rear of the Nelson’s jeep.

“Winnie tried to help save her husband and also ran to nearby houses to call for police help, but tragically, Nelson died at the scene as a result of the stab wounds.”

DCI Corrigan added: “The break for the investigation team came when it was found that an attempt had been made to purchase a hot tub from Ebay, using a credit card stolen in the robbery. This online attempted transaction was made within one hour of Mr Cheung’s death. Our enquiries into this online activity then led us to the home address of Gary and Lisa Thompson.”

“Detectives were able to piece together the movements of the four people involved directly before and after the murder including the fact Virgilio  Correia and Christopher Menaul had followed the Cheungs the previous night also in a ‘dry run’.

“CCTV evidence also showed Virgilio Correia and Christopher Menaul calling at the home of Gary and Lisa Thompson at Cunningham Way in Antrim at around 9:40pm on January 7, where they remained for approximately one hour. We believe this was when plans for the robbery were finalised. Correia and Menaul then leave together at 10:35pm in Correia’s VW Golf. One minute later, Lisa Thompson leaves the house in her Vauxhall Astra and collects partner Gary Thompson from Templepatrick.

“Our examination of telephone records show a call from Correia’s phone to Gary Thompson at 11:31pm on January 7 while CCTV footage for this time showed Correia’s vehicle parked close to Mr Cheung’s restaurant on Main Street, Randalstown.

“At 12:08am on January 8, Correia phones Gary Thompson’s phone again. This is believed to be the call to say they are on their way back and they arrive at Gary Thompson’s home 15 minutes later. They are in the house for approximately 20 minutes before returning to the car and remove items including a bin bag – the Cheungs’ belongings.

“Mrs Cheung’s blood was subsequently found in this vehicle and on various items belonging to the accused.”

DCI Corrigan concluded: “This was a particularly brutal and senseless attack on a defenceless couple who were returning home after a hard day’s work. All police enquires lead us to believe that the motivation behind this horrendous crime was to pay off drugs debts.”

“Nelson died as a result and Winnie’s life has been destroyed - she left Northern Ireland to return to family in Hong Kong within days of her husband’s murder. She can no longer work due to her injury and also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress.”

 “And his daughter has described her father as ‘my rock, my beacon, my protector, and the voice of wisdom as I was growing up’.”

 

Witness Impact Statement by the Cheung’s daughter (who does not wish to be named)

Since the day that I learned of the horrendous crime against my father more than two years ago, I have been dreaming about the days that these criminals would stand trial for their acts and be brought to justice, and the day on which this “victim impact” statement would be read. Yet, as I sit down to write the letter that I have been thinking about for more than two years, I find myself lost for words. I don’t know which stage of grief I am at. And I don’t know how to put into words my loss, how I feel and how it impacted me.

Do you have a daughter?  If you do, then you would have the privilege of experiencing that special bond shared between a father and his little girl. Then perhaps you would understand what’s gone from my world since that evening, and the love and respect I had for my father. To me, my father was not the “Nelson Cheung” that you read or hear about in the newspapers, in court papers, or on the news. He was my rock, my beacon, my protector, and the voice of wisdom as I was growing up.

My brother and I stayed with my father when my parents separated when I was three years old. I remember there was always a table full of breakfast which he prepared for us before he left for work every morning. I will never forget how he cared for me, the warmth that I felt as a child when he held my hand, how he taught me to stand up for myself, to believe in myself and that I can be whatever I want to be.

My father called me a few months before his death to tell me that he was considering retiring and moving back to New Zealand, as he had severe pain in his feet for a while and found it physically challenging to continue working. That was the first time I heard my father complain about anything, and the first time I felt that even my father was getting old.

He was only two months away from his retirement when he was murdered. Winnie told me that, in the morning before he was killed, he happily showed her pictures of the house in New Zealand which he was considering buying for them when they retire. In the same year of his death, I got engaged. My older brother’s first child, my father’s first grandchild, was born. My wedding took place the following year. This year, my first child, my father’s second grandchild, was born.

My father never got the chance to enjoy his retirement that he looked so much forward to, nor to walk his only daughter down the aisle, nor to enjoy his grandchildren. It breaks my heart to think that he never even got the chance to lay in his warm bed at home again. He was stabbed 17 times and bled to death in a road-side ditch in the dark cold night, in fear and panic. It pains me to think about his thoughts and emotions in the last moments of his life as he laid there on the ground, watching a stranger holding a knife to his wife while his own life was slipping away. Was he cold? Was it quick? Did he think about his children far away? Was he angry? Or did he feel lonely and sad?

Robbed of the happy memories of my father at my wedding or playing with my child, I have instead, forever, in my mind images of my father's lifeless body lying on the cold autopsy table and in his coffin; of his coffin being taken off of the plane like any other cargo; and of his body being carried out of his coffin into the fridge with bloody bodily fluid seeping through his back.

Even the make-up carefully done on his sunken face could not mask the fact that life had already been brutally taken away from his body a long time ago. No one deserves to go out like this. No little girl should ever see her father like this.

I am incredibly sad. The deep grief is so intense that my heart wrenches every time I think of my father. I dare not think of my father or even the happy memories unless I am alone. I am sad that he’s been taken away from me so early. I am even more sad about the way in which he was taken away. He should have left this world in his own bed surrounded by his loved ones, not in a roadside ditch in the cold like an animal.

Nothing can undo any of this and nothing can bring my father back to me. Nothing. Life continues to go on but I know nothing can fill that void that’s been left behind. I have given up hoping that I will wake up one day and it’s nothing but a nightmare.

Sincerely yours,

Daughter of Nelson Cheung

Photograph captions:

  1. Nelson Cheung
  2. Blood smear on bonnet of Nelson’s vehicle
  3. Stolen car believed to have been driven by Menaul which forced the Cheung’s vehicle off the road

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