News

Court upholds conviction of pawnbroker's killer

The man who murdered a Richmond pawnbroker in 2004, was unsuccessful in his bid for a new trial.

Kieng Beng Tan was convicted in February of 2011 of the second-degree murder of Sonny Le and was handed a life sentence without eligibility for parole for 10 years.

This week, the Court of Appeal for B.C. ruled on his bid for a new trial, in which Tan claimed:

• Mounties breached his Charter rights in collecting evidence abroad;

• the court allowed inadmissible evidence in the form of undercover police statements

• the confession he made to police was not voluntary

Justice Elizabeth A. Bennett dismissed the appeal and upheld the conviction, a ruling that Justice John E. Hall and Justice Anne W. MacKenzie agreed with.

"In my respectful opinion, I can see no error in the analysis of the trial judge requiring this court's intervention," Bennett wrote in her ruling. "He considered all relevant elements of the voluntariness analysis and all the relevant circumstances to determine whether Mr. Tan's confession was voluntary. His factual conclusions and the inferences he drew from them are supported on the evidence."

Le was the owner of Lee's Jewellers and Loans, a pawn shop on No. 3 Road located directly across the street from Richmond City Hall.

His lifeless body was found inside the store on May 7, 2004, and he'd sustained three stab wounds to his chest, concentrated in a small group in and around his heart.

It was a latent thumb print and palm print, found on a glass display case next to Le's body, that were later identified as belonging to Tan, who was a customer and frequented the store several times before Le's death.

Investigators also found five pawn receipts, in Tan's name, including one dated May 5, 2004, the same day that Le was killed.

Investigators kept mum about the murder until 2008, when they revealed that Tan had long been in their sights.

Tan had hocked a camera, a laptop computer, a watch and an amethyst ring at Le's pawn shop, investigators learned.

According to the court ruling, Tan moved to Malaysia following Le's murder.

Two RCMP officers arranged to interview Tan in a Malaysia hotel, during which he agreed to provide police with fingerprints.

Though those fingerprints matched the crime scene, Crown counsel in Canada were fearful the police tactics would not pass Charter scrutiny.

But Tan was later arrested and extradited to Canada in 2008 after his arrest for credit card fraud by police in Belgium. Belgium police had shared their fingerprint evidence with Mounties who matched them with what was found in Le's pawnshop.

Two RCMP officers flew to Belgium to take Tan into custody, and he eventually made it to Vancouver.

While he was being transported by police from Vancouver International Airport, Tan made a jailhouse confession to a cellmate, who turned out to actually be an undercover police officer.

During an eight-hour interrogation, in which Tan was shown crime scene pictures of Le, and a pre-recorded emotional statement from Le's daughter, Tan confessed to the killing.

His motive? Respect.

Le was allegedly charging him extra money for the return of the pawned items, and Tan said it was a matter of respect.

Tan also drew a picture of the knife he used, and wrote a letter of apology to Le's daughter.

After that, police arrested Tan for second-degree murder.

DNA evidence also linked Tan to the murder scene.

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