Limerick gardai look to Macau to seek justice for notorious Tao Tao ‘Triad murder’

In February 2002, a former Peony Court chef was murdered at a Chinese restaurant in Patrickswell by suspected Triad members. Fintan Walsh investigates how the garda probe has progressed 16 years on

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Email:

fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

The murder scene in 2002 and below, how the Leader covered it and former Supt William Keane Pictures: Limerick Leader

The murder scene in 2002 and below, how the Leader covered it and former Supt William Keane Pictures: Limerick Leader

GARDAI believe they have found the “missing piece of the jigsaw” in an investigation into a notorious and brutal murder in County Limerick that has gone unsolved for almost two decades, the Limerick Leader can exclusively reveal.

For 16 years, determined detectives at Roxboro Road have been probing the circumstances surrounding the murder of young restaurateur Anthony Tsang, who was stabbed to death by suspected Triad members at a Chinese restaurant in Patrickswell.

The Department of Justice has confirmed that Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has received correspondence that the Tsang family are still awaiting a decision from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. A family source said the tribunal is ongoing because it is alleged that Anthony was criminally involved. 

The tribunal was set up to offer compensation to successful applicants who suffer from a personal injury or death as a result of crime or violence.

The Tsang family robustly refute the allegation of criminal involvement, a family source told this newspaper.

Anthony Tsang’s murder is the first murder of the millennium that remains unsolved within the Limerick Garda Division, according to a list of murders seen by this newspaper.

Five individuals were arrested on the night of Tsang’s murder on February 5, 2002, but one “significant witness” had left the jurisdiction “within hours” and has been since residing in Macau, according to a reliable source.

In the early stages of the investigation, a file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions but gardai were instructed that the DPP was not going to direct until the individual in Macau was interviewed, or afforded an opportunity to give his account.

By law, gardai are not able to begin extradition proceedings for witnesses until receiving directions from the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

But it is understood that, in the past 24 months, Roxboro Road detectives flew to Macau to interview this person-of-interest and received his account of that night. The Limerick Leader has been informed that, arising out of this interview, a file has since been sent to the DPP.

While a Garda spokesperson confirmed that the DPP has received a file, they would not confirm the date of receipt.

The spokesperson confirmed: “The investigation into to the murder of Anthony (Kwok) Tsang at Tao Tao restaurant, Patrickswell, Co Limerick on February 5, 2002 is ongoing and progressing.”

Anthony, a Hong Kong native, aged 33, also known as Kwok Tsang, was visiting friends in Limerick when he and and a friend were involved in a brawl at the now-defunct Tao Tao Chinese restaurant on the Main Street, Patrickswell, at 11.40pm on February 5, 2002.

It is understood that the altercation involved staff, shortly after the Tao Tao restaurant had been closed. 

Former Assistant Garda Commissioner, William Keane led the investigation when he was superintendent of Roxboro Road garda station. Mr Keane also served as chief superintendent of the Limerick Garda Division until 2010. 

The victim was living with his wife Lisa and children in Galway, where he ran a successful restaurant, Ocean Palace. Anthony settled in Galway after living in Corbally and he had been working as a chef at The Peony Court, Punches Cross.

Mr Tsang died from multiple stab wounds and was pronounced dead on arrival at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, now University Hospital Limerick. His friend suffered non-life threatening injuries.

A source said that Anthony had previously been “brutally attacked” for refusing to pay protection money to the Triads, a notorious gang that has been running lucrative operations in Limerick since the 1980s.

The family believe that Anthony was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, and that his resistance to the dangerous gang “may have cost him his life”, the source said.

Anthony Tsang, who met Lisa in Belfast, was described as “a good husband and a loving father” to his two children, who were aged eight and seven at the time of his death.

A source close to the family said that the widow’s life “spiralled out of control” after the night of February 5, 2002.

“She was really on her own. She had a few friends from Galway. She tried to survive as best she could. But Lisa was unable to work because, obviously, mentally she was unable to work.”

Ms Tsang later decided to relocate to Donegal with her two children.

“It just got to a stage where she said, look, I want a fresh start, and moved to Donegal. She tried to pick up the pieces and move on from there. Luckily, the kids were well looked after. Lisa did a fantastic job as a mother, protecting them as best as she could. She basically tried to rebuild their lives. And the two kids have turned out fantastic,” the source said in a recent interview.

“And it’s only recently that detectives went over and found this guy. And it’s only recently that there’s something starting to happen,” the source added.

But Lisa, now aged 46, who was a house wife at the time, has had to endure an additional trauma in recent years, as she has not been awarded compensation over Anthony’s murder from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. An ex gratia payment can be awarded on the basis of loss of earnings, if a victim has died, to dependants of the victim.

However, according to the family source, the tribunal has been ongoing for a number of years because of an allegation that Anthony Tsang may have been criminally involved.

Under Article 13 of the scheme, no compensation will be payable if the tribunal is satisfied that the victim was responsible for an offence giving rise to his injuries. Defending Anthony’s innocence, the source explained how the Triads coax young Chinese locals into their operations, adding that he “wasn’t part of any Triad gang”.

“If a young Chinese man is making his way in life in a country where the Triads may have a presence, [they] will try and force somebody into protection money. And Anthony wasn’t prepared to pay protection money to the Triads, as a Chinese person himself. Unfortunately, he did get brutally attacked in one incident a long time prior to that [the murder] for refusing to pay protection money to Triads.”

The source said that if the Triads are not able to recruit a new member, they will “try and squeeze them for protection money for their business”.

“[Anthony] didn’t want to take part. He just wanted to be a businessman with his restaurant, his family, and move on with life and be left alone. And unfortunately, it may have cost him his life. But he was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens to a lot of people, unfortunately, and he probably maybe resisted that night and lost his life.”

The family source said that Anthony was never charged or interviewed about involvement with the Triads.

The family source said that the tribunal is “not about money, it’s about closure”.

The family are hoping that the tribunal will help clear Anthony’s name of allegations of criminal activity.

“They are still trying to hang a poor man who lost his life and have his family hung out to dry for something that isn’t factually correct, and affect the livelihood and futures of a widow and her kids.

“It’s about time the criminal justice system got its act together and started caring about the people that’s left. It’s to make sure that something can be done so that these things don’t continue to happen,” the Leader was told.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and quality told the Limerick Leader this week: “The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally inflicted.  Under the terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is entirely independent in the exercise of its functions. The Department does not comment on individual applications to the Tribunal. However, the Department can confirm that the Minister has recently received correspondence regarding this case.”