Policeman found guilty of killing
By Richard Smithat the Old BaileyA MOTHER demanded financial compensation last night after a Suffolk policeman was found guilty of shooting her son dead.
By Richard Smith
at the Old Bailey
A MOTHER demanded financial compensation last night after a Suffolk policeman was found guilty of shooting her son dead.
Norma Spencer said she was delighted justice had finally been done 23 years after Michael Cheong blasted her son, Brian, to death in Guyana.
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She called for a financial payout for her family to compensate them for the loss of a loved son and brother.
Mrs Spencer was speaking outside the Old Bailey in London yesterday after she had watched a jury find Cheong, 43, guilty of manslaughter by a majority verdict of 10-1.
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Cheong, who has been an officer with Suffolk Constabulary for five years and is based in Ipswich, had denied murdering Mr Spencer on August 4, 1982.
He was cleared of murder and of manslaughter by reason of provocation, with the jury taking two hours and 35 minutes to reach their verdicts.
Cheong, of Peterhouse Crescent, Woodbridge, will be sentenced on September 5. He had been on bail, but Judge Paul Focke remanded him in custody while a pre-sentence report is prepared.
The announcements of the verdicts caused the tension to rise in the courtroom when the jury foreman made a mistake, initially telling the judge that it had found Cheong guilty of murder.
There were gasps from the public gallery where Cheong's friends and Mr Spencer's family were sitting, but the verdicts had to be announced again after the foremen realised he had made a mistake.
Mrs Spencer, who flew from Guyana to give evidence during the three-week trial, said: “I did not know the truth when my son died and how it came about he was shot.
“I came here to hear the truth and I feel very pleased with the verdict. Now the only thing I can look forward to is for him to compensate me.”
Mrs Spencer said she was upset at the portrayal of her son during the trial as a robber who had attacked Cheong's wife, Sandra, and her sister Jackie.
The court heard the woman had feared they would be raped and Cheong had chased and confronted, Mr Spencer shooting him in the back when he was running away.
Mrs Spencer said: “I miss my son, he was the eldest, a lot and he is always in my memory. He was not a criminal. He had no convictions.”
Her daughter, Denise, 42, added: “We have a saying in Guyana that justice delayed is justice denied, but today we have seen that justice delayed is not justice denied.
“Today we have got justice and we are satisfied. Brian was very jovial and he liked to write songs and sing music for people.”
Detective Superintendent Roy Lambert, of Suffolk police, who led the murder inquiry, said: “Brian's family have suffered the anguish of not knowing what happened or who was responsible for his death. Now, more than 20 years after the shooting, these questions have been answered.
“Suffolk Constabulary launched an investigation after receiving information about this incident, conducting inquiries on two continents and working with Interpol, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Guyana Police force.
“Today's conviction is the result of months of hard work by a dedicated inquiry team - and underlines the police's determination to ensure that justice is done, despite the passing of time.
“I would like to thank all the Suffolk Constabulary staff who contributed to this investigation and all the people in Guyana who helped us with our inquiries.”
The court heard Cheong and his wife had kept their deadly secret for more than 20 years after he shot dead Mr Spencer, a robber who stole from his newly-wed wife in 1982 and was on the verge of raping the frightened 20-year-old and her 17-year-old sister, Jackie.
The couple kept quiet until their marriage was on the rocks in 2003 and Mrs Cheong, in a row over the custody of their seven-year-old daughter, made an anonymous call to the police, claiming her husband had shot dead a man in Guyana, South America, 21 years earlier.
Mark Dennis, prosecuting, said: “She had been told to keep quiet and had played, in her words, the dutiful and loyal wife.
“But as the years went on her loyalty to her husband became increasingly strained. By 2003 the marriage had irretrievably broken down, ending in bitterness and antagonism on both sides.
“What became clear was that this wasn't a false allegation made by a bitter person turning to lies and falsehood to get back at her former partner, but that such a killing had indeed taken place.
“She was now free from any bonds of silence which had stopped her saying anything until then.”
Mrs Cheong had never been asked to give evidence against her husband in Guyana - under the country's laws a wife could not testify against her husband.
Cheong was never tried for murder and the only charge he faced relating to the death of Mr Spencer was that he had unlawfully possessed a firearm.
Police officers from Suffolk investigating the shooting discovered many of the original records had either been destroyed or had disappeared.
Mr Dennis said there had been “something of a cover-up at the time, at the very least in the family”.
He added: “There was an apparent lack of concern for the victim, who after all could be easily dismissed as a criminal who had been shot having committed a serious offence against two women.”
One of six children, Mr Spencer grew up in Buxton, a village of about 3,000 people a few miles from Georgetown, and attended a Roman Catholic primary school.
He moved to Buxton Community High School before finishing education in his mid-teens and taking up work in the carpentry trade.
His mother refused to give up and campaigned to have the case reopened. Mr Dennis said: “The defendant was aware of it. By September 1984 he suddenly fled Guyana never to return.
“He made his way to this country - followed by his wife. He left not only Guyana, but also the shooting, to start a new life.”
Cheong - who had enrolled in the Army and joined Suffolk police in 2000 - was arrested in November 2003 and he then came face-to-face with his estranged wife during his Old Bailey trial when she gave evidence against him.
The issue in the trial was whether Cheong, when he fired the shot, had intended to kill Mr Spencer or cause serious harm or if firing the shotgun had only been intended as a warning.
Cheong never disputed that the shooting occurred. When he had spotted Mr Spencer, who was running away, he had shouted at him to stop and not to run - and then fired, the court heard.
Karim Khalil QC, defending, said Cheong had not aimed at Mr Spencer “as a moving target”, but shot to scare him into doing exactly what was asked.
After Mr Spencer was wounded in the back, he lay for more than an hour on a truck outside a police station before finally being driven to hospital.
Mr Khalil said Mr Spencer had been alive and calling for water in the baking midday sun.
“If that injured man had been taken straight to hospital, he would be alive today,” he added.
“Michael Cheong had brought Mr Spencer to the police and put him in their care. He was then taken off himself to be interviewed.”