Policeman jailed for killing robber
By Richard Smitha the Old BaileyA POLICEMAN'S career lay in tatters last night as he started a two-year prison sentence for killing a robber at point-blank range.
By Richard Smith
a the Old Bailey
A POLICEMAN'S career lay in tatters last night as he started a two-year prison sentence for killing a robber at point-blank range.
Michael Cheong, a constable with Suffolk police, was said to be now living in fear from attacks by other prisoners in jail.
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The 43-year-old, of Peterhouse Crescent, Woodbridge, was sentenced at the Old Bailey yesterday after being found guilty last month of the manslaughter of Brian Spencer in Guyana in 1982.
Cheong had denied murder and was cleared of the charge by a majority verdict of 10-1.
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But he was found guilty of manslaughter on the basis he had committed an unlawful and dangerous act. Cheong will spend half of his sentence in jail and serve the remainder in the community on licence.
Mr Spencer, 23, was shot by Cheong, then a farm labourer, after he had attacked and robbed Cheong's newly-wed wife, Sandra, and her sister, Jackie.
Cheong, who spent four weeks in custody after the verdict, has been living with two other prisoners in a cell designed for one person.
Judge Paul Focke was told yesterday that Cheong's job as a constable had laid him open to a miserable existence in prison.
Karim Khalil, mitigating, said: ''He has experienced the shock of incarceration and the fear and panic that it would engender in any person.
”When others know of his employment and find him in prison, it is recognised that they will seek to effect their own form of retribution against him.”
Mr Khalil said Cheong was mixing with a “heady mix of personalities” on the segregation wing and it was ironical that they were people whom he would normally seek to arrest and prosecute.
Suffolk police will now start a disciplinary procedure to decide what action to take against Cheong, an Ipswich town centre beat officer, who has been suspended from duty since his arrest in November 2003.
Mr Khalil said Cheong had already been served with papers effectively terminating his employment and it was expected proceedings would start to recoup pension contributions.
“He faces financial ruin and the destruction of all that he most holds dear to him,” he said.
Numerous letters of support were handed in on Cheong's behalf from police officers, friends, clergy, his eldest daughter and his fiancée, Julie King, a civilian support worker at Ipswich police station.
Mr Khalil said Cheong had barely been an adult in 1982 and leading a different life to today when he was told his wife had been attacked.
“He is a man who does not enjoy violence, in any form of shape whatever. He has seen what a single act of violence can lead to and abhors it,” he said.
“This man poses no risk to other people. He has dedicated himself to conduct all forms of his life in an impeccable, decent and honest manner. He was a rock for those around him.”
Mr Khalil said Cheong's wife had played the “last roll of the dice” during the break down of their marriage in England and discussions about the custody of their two children when she told police about the death of Mr Spencer.
He said Mrs Cheong had told journalists that she had wanted revenge for the collapse of the marriage, an access battle over their younger daughter and his affair, rather than a desire for justice over the killing.
Mr Khalil said Mrs Cheong, a healthcare assistant now living in Cambridge, had been quoted as saying: “He treated me badly and now he's getting a taste of his own medicine. Well that's too bad.
“I've taught him a very hard lesson, but he chose to go there. He should have respected me and left me alone. Revenge is a dish best served cold, as my aunt always says.”
Sentencing Cheong, Judge Focke told him: “Some 23 years ago when you were in Guyana you discovered that Mr Spencer had robbed and assaulted your wife and sister-in-law, whereupon you armed yourself with a shotgun and went out to look for him, accompanied by members of your family.
“When Mr Spencer was pointed out to you, after briefly shouting to him to stop you, without further warning and at close range, fired the shotgun at him as he ran away. He did not receive proper medical attention and died shortly afterwards.”
Cheong was never tried for the killing in Guyana. He was accused of possessing a firearm and the judge said Cheong had fled the country when he had been warned that Mr Spencer's death could come to court.
The judge added: “I recognise that nothing I can say today will bring any comfort to Mr Spencer's family in their tragic loss.”
Cheong's fiancée declined to comment after the hearing.