Takeaway chef guilty of attempted murder

Cleaver attack fractured victim's skull, jury told

John Garvey


John Garvey



Takeaway chef guilty of attempted murder

A CHINESE takeaway cook has been convicted of attempted murder after plunging a meat cleaver into a colleague's skull.

Jurors at Reading Crown Court delivered their unanimous verdict this afternoon (Friday.

Disgruntled Qiang Gao was either fired or quit in the aftermath of the blazing row which started when head chef and victim, Kok Yuan Woon,  told him how to marinate a chicken.

 The argument began after Gao took exception to Mr Woon interrupting his food preparation and led to the defendant storming out of the kitchen, demanding he be paid for his work as he did so, jurors were told. 

The two men twice had to be separated by co-workers after going face-to-face with each other, before they took their argument outside the Szechuan Express Chinese Takeaway in Thatcham High Street, the jury was told earlier. 

They were told how Mr Woon initially swung a meat cleaver at Gao in a courtyard at the back of the takeaway and smashed him around the ankle with a heavy duty metal ladle before heading back into the kitchen. 

Gao – who suffered a cut to the arm and heavy bruising to his ankle – then retaliated, furiously hitting Mr Woon twice over the head and in the shoulder and leaving a series of horrific injuries, the court heard. 

The 39-year-old later claimed he had lashed out with the cleaver in an act of self-defence after Mr Woon, aged 40 years, had hit him first in an "adrenaline-fuelled frenzied attack."

Mr Woon came off worse however and suffered a three inch wound to the right side of his forehead and a two inch cut to the back of the head - both of which cut through his skull.

He also suffered a four inch cut to his upper arm that cut through the muscle and a one inch cut to a finger, the jury was told.

Alan Gardner, prosecuting at the week-long trial, said: "Mr Gao struck Mr Woon at least twice to the head with the meat cleaver and Mr Gao did so with enough force to fracture Mr Woon's skull. 

"The prosecution says that when the defendant did that with the cleaver, it can only have been done with the intent to kill Mr Woon."

 He told the nine male and three female jurors: "The prosecution case is that, even though there may be discrepancies between the accounts of the prosecution witnesses, it is clear there came a time, after Mr Gao and Mr Woon's various confrontations with each other, when the defendant launched an attack on Mr Woon with a meat cleaver - striking him on the head. 

"He hit him with enough force to fracture the skull. The only sensible conclusion from that is, when Mr Gao struck Mr Woon in that way, his intention was to kill Mr Woon." 

The incident happened in the kitchen at around 12pm on May 28 when the two men, who were both on duty in the kitchen, started arguing. 

Mr Gardner told the court, presided over by Judge John Reddihough: "This appears to have been triggered by some sort of disagreement between them about the preparation of chicken in the kitchen. 

"Some of the witnesses' evidence you will hear suggests Mr Woon, the head chef, appeared to be firing Mr Gao, telling him his job was finished there, whereas other witnesses had the impression he chose to leave his job himself." 

Gao stormed out of the kitchen towards a rear courtyard while Mr Woon continued with his work. At some point Mr Woon went out the back to put some food into a chiller, and the argument flared up again, Mr Gardner said.

He told the court: "Mr Woon's account is within a few seconds of that incident taking place, he felt something hit his face. He didn't see Mr Gao hit him and didn't see what object was used, but he recalls falling backwards." 

This victim said the argument had started after he had asked Gao to cut up some chicken into pieces before washing and marinating it and putting it into the chiller. 

Mr Woon then picked up a chair to protect himself before falling into a semi conscious state through blood loss prior to paramedics rushing to the scene, the court heard. 

Mr Gardner said however that another member of kitchen staff, Wah Cheng, had spotted Mr Woon going outside armed with a meat cleaver. When he went outside to intervene, he saw Mr Woon trying to attack Gao with the cleaver, Mr Gardner said.

Alistair Grainger, defending Gao, accused the victim of being the aggressor and said it was Mr Woon who had in fact started the argument between the pair.

Mr Grainger said however that Mr Woon had "borrowed" aspects of Gao's defence and turned the story around. He said that Mr Woon told police he had used a chair to defend himself from Gao, when in fact it was the defendant who had used it to shield himself from the head chef. Mr Woon, known to takeaway customers as Vincent, denied this. 

"You were engaged in an adrenaline-fuelled, frenzied attack," Mr Grainger said. "Your parting shot was to throw your cleaver at Mr Gao – fortunately you missed." 

Gao, of Acorn Drive, Thatcham, Berks.,  will be sentenced on December 22 at the same court. 

Investigating officer, Det Con Gareth Perry from Thames Valley Police CID at Newbury police station said: "Violent crime has no place in our community and will not be tolerated. This conviction is an example of how Thames Valley Police works to protect the community and bring offenders to justice."

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