Man who killed his wife in fire de­ported to South Korea

North Wales Weekly News - - NEWS - BY DAVID POW­ELL

A MUR­DERER who killed his wife in a Snow­do­nia fire has been de­ported to South Korea - even though doubts per­sist over his con­vic­tion.

Jong Yoon Rhee started the blaze near Llan­r­wst in 1997 and was con­victed of mur­der­ing his wife Natalie at a trial the fol­low­ing year.

Last month, af­ter serv­ing 18 years, he was es­corted from HMP Gartree, a cat­e­gory B prison in Le­ices­ter­shire, and flown back to his na­tive coun­try. He is be­lieved to have left there, aged eight in 1972.

It was in April 1997 that the cou­ple were stay­ing at a 17th Cen­tury cot­tage in Llan­r­wst. Rhee told his Ch­ester Crown Court trial that they were awo­ken by fire. Natalie was hes­i­tant about jump­ing through the bed­room win­dow so he went first and would have caught her. She, how­ever, didn’t fol­low and died.

The pros­e­cu­tion said he torched the cot­tage to claim £250,000 to cover gam­bling debts.

But a foren­sic ex­pert al­leged that there were flaws in the fire in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that Natalie, 25, died ac­ci­den­tally from smoke in­hala­tion, ac­cord­ing to re­ports in mag­a­zine Pri­vate Eye.

The ex­pert Dr Roger Ber­rett, of Foren­sic Ac­cess, al­leged that another ex­pert - an elec­tri­cal engi­neer who is now dead - “leaned over back­wards” to sup­port the pros­e­cu­tion case, it states in the mag­a­zine’s “Mis­car­riage of Jus­tice” sec­tion.

From South Korea, Rhee told the mag­a­zine he would main­tain his in­no­cence.

The Home Of­fice told the Daily Post it takes the pro­tec­tion of the public “very se­ri­ously” and will de­port crim­i­nals.

A Home Of­fice of­fice spokesman said: “We do not rou­tinely com­ment on indi- vid­ual cases.

“For­eign na­tion­als who abuse our hos­pi­tal­ity by com­mit­ting crimes in the UK should be in no doubt of our de­ter­mi­na­tion to de­port them.

“We take our duty to pro­tect the public very se­ri­ously – we have re­moved more than 24,000 for­eign na­tional of­fend­ers since 2010”.

While North Wales Po­lice couldn’t com­ment on the de­por­ta­tion, the Crim­i­nal Cases Re­view Com­mis­sion said it had looked at Rhee’s con­vic­tion re­peat­edly.

A CCRC spokesman said: “The Com­mis­sion has con­sid­ered Mr Rhee’s 1998 mur­der con­vic­tion on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions; in 2000, 2004 and 2010.

“In spite of hav­ing looked into the case in great de­tail the Com­mis­sion has been un­able to iden­tify grounds upon which to re­fer Mr Rhee’s con­vic­tion back the Court of Ap­peal.

“The Com­mis­sion has supplied de­tailed rea­sons for its de­ci­sion in re­la­tion to each re­view in a doc­u­ment called a state­ment of rea­sons. Those state­ments were sent to Mr Rhee and his le­gal team.”

He added that statu­tory re­stric­tions placed on the Com­mis­sion by the Crim­i­nal Ap­peal Act 1995 (Sec­tion 23) mean that the CCRC can­not make those doc­u­ments public.

Rhee and his rep­re­sen­ta­tives are able to make them public if they choose to.

Baroness Chris­tine Humphreys said: “I cer­tainly re­mem­ber this case. It was hor­rific and ev­ery­one was re­ally con­cerned about the peo­ple who owned the cot­tage.”

She was un­able to com­ment on the va­lid­ity of Rhee’s claims of in­no­cence but on his de­por­ta­tion, she added: “It is an in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ment.”

Mem­bers of brass bands play­ing in Llan­dudno

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