Pair cleared by Liverpool crown court jury over 2004 murder of Cheung Shing Cheung in his Birkenhead flat

TWO men were cleared of the murder of a Hong Kong money lender in Merseyside.

A Liverpool crown court jury deliberated for 18 hours, having retired on Thursday, before coming back with their verdict yesterday.

The panel of seven men and five women found Qing Kong and Ba Fei Jhu not guilty of the murder of 51-year-old Cheung Shing Cheung in his Birkenhead flat in May 2004.

A well-known money lender around Liverpool’s casinos, Mr Cheung left his homeland in early 2004 to return to Merseyside, where he had been living on and off for several years.

He planned to make money to support his soon-to-be-increasing family after his wife, with the help of fertility treatment, fell pregnant.

Although registered unemployed, the man known as “Alfay” in the Chinese community earned a steady living lending out his cash and charging his own interest rates.

He lived in a small flat in Pine Court, Birkenhead, among others from the Far East and was said to be well liked by neighbours. It was in that flat where he met his death.

Just before 1am on May 15, 2004, two friends of Alfay, who had been unable to contact him, rang the police.

Firefighters forced a window open and officers went inside. There, they found Mr Cheung’s body lying in the living room.

He had been battered and strangled, probably with a wire.

Straightaway, detectives found themselves entering previously unknown territory.

Interpreters had to be called in to speak to Merseyside’s Chinese community and appeal leaflets were printed in Cantonese and Mandarin.

The investigation team soon established Mr Cheung left the Stanley casino, in Renshaw Street, Liverpool city centre, at around 6pm on May 13 and spoke to a neighbour at home at about 10.20pm.

Neighbours told police they heard raised men’s voices at around 2am on May 14, followed by a scream before it all went quiet.

The prosecution alleged Kong, 50, and Jhu, 54, were the men heard arguing with the victim.

They were arrested at the time of the murder and then again earlier this year. Their trial lasted for three weeks.

After the jury’s verdict, police said they would keep the case open and urged anyone they had not yet spoken to, to come forward.

Detective Chief Superintendent Brian McNeill, who led the investigation team, said: “We respect the decision of the court and obviously this case remains open.

“We would continue to appeal to anyone who has any information about this investigation to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”