Nelson Cheung's killers 'needed money to pay a paramilitary drug debt'

Nelson Cheung was murdered in January 2015 as he drove home from his Chinese restaurant in Randalstown

TWO Co Antrim men who admitted murdering a businessman and seriously injuring his wife after ramming their jeep needed to raise money to pay paramilitaries over a drugs debt, a court heard today.

Nelson Cheung (64) was stabbed 18 times and his wife Winnie sustained wounds to her head and hand in the violent robbery.

After the attackers fled, Mrs Cheung was found by the emergency services at the side of the road, covered in blood and cradling her fatally wounded husband. He had sustained puncture wounds to his neck and chest.

Belfast Crown Court heard that prior to the murder in the early hours of January 8 2015, Mrs Cheung feared she was being followed, and that the killers - Christopher David Menaul (27) and 35-year old Virgilio Augusto Fernando Correia - undertook a 'dry run' of the robbery which was captured on CCTV.

Following Mr Cheung's murder, his wife Winnie and their children returned to Hong Kong, from where they watched today's proceedings via Skype.

Gary and Lisa Thompson pictured at an earlier appearance at Belfast Crown Court. Picture by Alan Lewis-

Crown prosecutor David McDowell QC spoke of the devastating impact Mr Cheung's murder has had on his family, particularly his widow and their two children saying the Victim Impact statements showed the "extreme pain" they had to endure.

As details surrounding the robbery and murder emerged for the first time, the court heard both Menaul and Correia owed money for a drugs debt.

The pair laid in wait for the Cheungs to lock up the Double Value restaurant on Randalstown's Main Street, and sat in a stolen car which they parked close to the takeaway.

As they drove off towards their home in Ballymena with Mrs Cheung behind the wheel, she expressed concerns that they were being followed.

Police forensic experts examine a car involved in the murder of Nelson Cheung near Randalstown. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

On Caddy Road, she slowed down to allow the Seat Toledo travelling behind to pass her at which time the Cheung's jeep was rammed from behind and, following an altercation, Mr Cheung was attacked.

Mrs Cheung was also subjected to violence and sustained a serious head wound that required staples.

Her handbag - containing £200 in cash, bank cards, an iPad, an iPhone and several other items - was taken during the incident.

Correia and Menaul then fled the scene in a Golf car registered to Correia.

Christopher David Menaul at an earlier court hearing in Ballymena 

Mr McDowell said that when the duo fled, Mrs Cheung realised her husband was seriously injured and ran for help. When police and ambulance arrived a short time later, they found Mrs Cheung at the side of the road, covered in blood and on her knees cradling her husband.

Mr Cheung was pronounced dead at the scene.

Following the murder, Menaul and Correia drove to the home of Gary and Lisa Thompson, at Cunningham Way in Antrim. The couple, who now live in Felden Avenue in Newtownabbey, allowed the killers to use their home for refuge, to remove clothing worn during the incident and to clean themselves.

There was also an online attempt to buy a hot tub using PayPal from that address using one of the stolen bank cards in the hours after the murder.

All four accused initially denied involvement. However Mr McDowell said Menaul "broke rank and pleaded guilty first, which made life extremely difficult for his co-defendants."

Originally from Barra Street in Antrim but now at HMP Maghaberry, Menaul pleaded guilty to murder on the grounds he was a secondary party, was not armed with a knife and didn't intent to harm or kill anyone.

He also admitted wounding Mrs Cheung with intent to do her grievous bodily harm, and stealing her handbag.

Correia, of Portuguese birth and whose address in January 2015 was Grant Avenue in Randalstown, also pleaded guilty to the same three charges.

Virgilio Agusto Fernando Corria at an earlier court hearing in Ballymena

The court heard that prior to the murder, both Correia - also with an address as HMP Maghaberray - and Menaul owed drug money to paramilitaries and had been threatened as a result.

Regarding Gary and Lisa Thompson, the couple both admitted a charge of assisting offenders and also a charge of perverting the course of justice.

And whilst Gary Thompson (34) admitted a charge of robbing Mrs Cheung of a handbag and its contents, his 35-year old wife Lisa admitted handling the stolen goods.

Sentence will be passed next week.

Nelson Cheung was murdered in January 2015 as he drove home from his Chinese restaurant in Randalstown


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