The Facebook Murder

facebook murder Joyce Winsie Hau

 Joyce "Winsie" Hau

 In January of 2012, a 14-year-old “hit man” stabbed to death a 15-year-old girl in her home in Arnhem, Holland for comments she made about her best friend and her boyfriend on Facebook.

by Marie Kusters-McCarthy

The Netherlands, also called Holland, is a country less than twice the size of New Jersey with a multi racial population of 16,696,000. It is a country of tolerance, steeped in culture, and has produced some of the world’s most well known, and admired, Old Masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Frans Hals and Vermeer.

With a population of over 16 million, Holland has its share of crime. But nothing prepared the Dutch people for the stabbing death of a 15 year old girl by a 14-year-old hit man in January 2012. Because of his age the killer is known only as “Jinhua K,” and was hired by the victim’s former best friend known as “Polly W” (16) and her boyfriend “Wesley C” (17).  The amount promised for the killing varies between $50 and $180.

The victim, Joyce “Winsie” Hau, of the Chinese-Dutch community in Arnhem, had a falling out with her best friend Polly and her boyfriend Wesley. What started as an online tiff escalated, over several weeks, as Polly had accused Winsie of posting some derogatory comments about them on Facebook. This tiff led Polly and Wesley to hire Jinhua K. to murder Winsie.

Jinhua K. was an acquaintance of Polly and Wesley and in late 2011 the three met up, on several occasions, to discuss the murder of Winsie. Polly provided the erstwhile hit man with the victim’s address and movements and suggested the best time to find her at home. The blood money was agreed upon and the promise of drinks once the victim was dead.

Jinhua K. seemed excited at the prospect of murdering an innocent 15-year-old girl and told several of his friends what he intended to do. Unfortunately, nobody took him seriously as he was known for telling tall stories and was considered a bit strange.

 

The Murder of Winsie Hau

Chun Nam Hau

On January 14, 2012, Jinhau K. went to the home of the Hau family and was invited in by Mr. Chun Nam Hau after saying he had something to deliver to Winsie. Once inside the hallway he saw Winsie and immediately wielded the knife, which he had brought with him, stabbing her in the neck and face. Her father tried to ward off the attack and was stabbed several times and, fortunately, survived. Winsie died five days later in hospital. The attack was witnessed by Winsie’s younger brother who was unharmed and proved to be a valuable witness. Within a short time Jinhau K. was arrested.

Jinhau K. immediately confessed to the crime and told police that Polly and Wesley had threatened to kill him if he didn’t go ahead with the murder. Polly and Wesley were then taken into police custody and both denied any involvement in the killing.

The Dutch Judiciary decided to hold two separate trials.  On August 20, 2012, Jinhau K. appeared in court, as a juvenile, before a panel of District Court judges in Arnhem, charged with the murder of Joyce “Winsie” Hau and the attempted murder of Mr. Chun Nam Hau.

 

The Trial of Jinhau K.

In Holland, trials involving juveniles are usually held in closed sessions. Both the defense lawyer and the social workers requested the case be held in closed court. However, a psychiatrist and a psychologist addressed the court saying their opinion was that a public hearing would not be detrimental to the accused. The judges agreed, saying that it was important that “society knows the facts” and that consideration outweighed the normal entitlement of privacy in this case.

The defense based its case on the fact that Jinhau K. had previously been convicted in juvenile court for offenses against property. Psychiatric reports, on behalf of the defense, stated that the accused had serious behavioural problems and showed signs of psychopathic traits since elementary school.  The defense concluded that Jinhau K. was dependent on group respect and had diminished accountability.

The statement made to the court by Jinhau K. that he felt threatened and feared for his life if he didn’t carry out the killing was rejected by the court. The plot to kill Winsie was discussed over a period of some weeks and there was plenty of opportunity when the defendant could have sought help from parents or authority figures.

The defendant did not know Winsie personally and has never given an explanation as to why he acted on the request, or instruction, of others. The question how could it happen that a 14-year-old boy killed a 15-year-old girl, whom he did not know, remains unanswered.

The hearing in court made it clear the effects on the family are beyond words. In addition, the murder and attempted murder has caused tremendous shock in the neighborhood, the city and the whole country. The defendant made the choice to carry through with the plot to kill Winsie and anyone who came to her defense. The psychiatric and psychology reports stated that the pressure the defendant says he felt was never so high that he was unable to resist it.

Judgement of the Court: “The Court is of the opinion, in agreement with the public prosecutor, that only the maximum sentence is fitting for these acts. This means the defendant is sentenced to 12 months juvenile detention with deduction of the period spent in pre-trial detention. Moreover, the Court believes it is in the interest of the defendant to be treated for his problems and imposes a measure for him to be placed in a judicial institution for juvenile offenders for a term of three years, one of which is conditional.”

Winsie’s father has said he was disappointed at the short sentence, but expected it. He said there should be a change in legislation to empower courts to impose longer sentences on juveniles in exceptional cases. “I lost my daughter and he gets one year in prison and the rest in a hospital. There’s a very big difference between the two.”

 

The Trial of Polly W. and Wesley C.        

The trial of Polly W. and Wesley C. in September was adjourned to await expert witnesses. The defendants were tried under Minor Criminal Law. Due to their ages, gravity of the crime and the circumstances in which the offense was committed would, in themselves, have justified the application of Adult Criminal Law.  

The experts, who examined the defendants, informed the court that both defendants have imminent personality disorder and their level of development of the socio-emotional functioning is lower than average. They said that they could foresee good possibilities for treatment if started immediately. Their recommendation, also, is that the parents of both defendants should be involved in their treatment. This would only be possible if the defendants were placed in an institution for young offenders. That knowledge and expert advice was what swayed the court to apply Minor Criminal Law.    

On Monday, November 12, 2012 the judges’ decision was announced. They ruled they were satisfied that the prosecution had proven the defendants’ guilt of co-perpetrating the incitement of Winsie’s murder. 

In issuing the ruling, the judges said the fact that a friendship between two young girls could turn into deep hate that had ended in murder had shocked the court. They said the impact on Winsie’s bereaved family was impossible to put into words. The importance of the defendants being given the necessary treatment for their serious problems and imbalanced development were decisive factors in the court’s decision to apply juvenile law.

Considering all these aspects, the court’s decision was to give the maximum punishment and sentenced the defendants to 24 months. In addition, the court imposed a measure to place them in a judicial institution for young offenders where they will receive treatment.  This measure will have a three year term, one of which is conditional.

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