Now that the jury has given its finding, we would like to offer a few comments about the inquest. Most important, the Coroner acted impeccably throughout, directing the proceedings with equanimity and offering the jury very specific directions about how it should go about its decision.
Particular attention was given to weighing the evidence and determining whether the witnesses were credible. Despite what the South China Morning Post has been reporting, most of the evidence given was very run of the mill, going to establish Vicky’s character in a positive light. Two specifically negative assessments came from Vicky’s supposed ‘best friend’ in Hong Kong and ‘boyfriend’ in the Philippines (in the later case through the interpreter who spoke to him over the phone).
These assessments seem to have persuaded the jury to make a leap of logic from a woman in Discovery Bay who was suffering from headaches, was clearly overworked and perhaps having some associated, and no doubt stress-related, mental difficulties to a suicide on the other side of Lantau island.
The jury, it must be said, had a difficult task in determining Vicky’s actions when they had next to no material evidence to consider. The inquest was essentially a rehash of the various statements made to the police from April to around June. However, the level of English comprehension expected of them was much higher than the norm in Hong Kong (blog administrator Mike Poole is a managing editor and writer for Chinese speaking people who use English as a second language, so this a professional assessment). There were also numerous references to Filipino cultural phenomena left unexplained, such as the penchant for labeling denominations separate religions and an entire corpus of folklore from southern Luzon remarked upon as though its implications were obvious.
This was compounded by the lawyer for Vicky’s employers, who encouraged the jury to take the view that Vicky’s seemingly unstable mental state should be their major consideration, despite evidence from his own clients that they had noticed nothing unusual about the woman in the days leading up to her death. Essentially, the lawyer acted as a prosecution counsel, as though Vicky’s character were on trial.
Given these aspects of the inquest, and the fact that Vicky’s sister Irene had no legal representation to counter their effects, the finding of suicide – rather than the proffered alternative of an open finding – is not entirely surprising. It is, however, disturbing because the overwhelming majority of the evidence presented was inconclusive, and suicide should be a finding backed by probative facts.
The one jury member who voted against the finding should be congratulated for elevating logic over supposition. Nevertheless, the process has run to its conclusion. In that sense we have ensured that natural justice, which is otherwise know as procedural justice, has been served. There is no appeal mechanism to push the case further, so we have to be satisfied with the fact that we pushed it thus far, when all indications were nothing would be made of it at all.
Tomorrow, most members of the Justice for Vicky concern group will meet again to discuss what we have learned, how we fared and what we can do in future. Tonight we will think of Vicky’s death as an ever unsolved mystery.