Hong Kong judge warns of 'torture' images as British banker's trial begins
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Armed policemen guard the entrance as a prison car carrying British former banker Rurik Jutting enters High Court in Hong Kong, China October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Jurors were warned by a Hong Kong judge that former British banker Rurik Jutting filmed the torture and killing of the two Indonesian women he is accused of murdering two years ago as the trial got underway on Monday.
Jutting, 31, pleaded not guilty to murder on grounds of "diminished responsibility", though the victims' bodies were found in his luxury high rise apartment.
The 31-year-old, who studied at Cambridge University and Winchester College, one of Britain's most famous and oldest private schools, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter, and to a third charge of preventing lawful burial of a body.
During the jury selection, Deputy High Court Judge Michael Stuart-Moore warned potential jurors that if they were unable to cope with viewing extreme violence they should not take part.
"There is a particularly horrifying aspect of the case.
One of the victims was subject to extreme cruelty and violence," the judge said, explaining that a number of horrifying and extreme color photographs could be presented during the trial.
“The defendant even recorded on his iPhone the torture inflicted on the first victim before she died."
The judge said the defense and prosecution were largely in agreement over the physical evidence, but the dispute may lie in psychiatric and psychological evidence provided by the defense to determine whether it was a case of murder or manslaughter.
Looking trim and dressed in a dark blue shirt, Jutting was clean shaven with short cut hair, in stark contrast to his initial court appearances when he looked heavily overweight and wore a thick dark beard.
The lurid nature of the case has cast a harsh light on the seamy side of Hong Kong, offering an insight into how some wealthy professionals flash their cash on sex, drugs and alcohol.
Jutting who previously worked at Bank of America Corp in Hong Kong, was accused of murder in October 2014 after police found the bodies of Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 26, in his apartment. Both women's throats were slit.
Ningsih's remains were discovered inside a suitcase on his balcony and the body of Mujiasih was found lying inside with wounds to her neck and buttocks, authorities said.
"HIGHLY GRAPHIC" VIDEO
Before the jury selection, Jutting's barrister Tim Owen explained the argument for diminished responsibility was based on the grounds of a personality disorder.
Deputy High Court Judge Stuart-Moore said "there isn't a disease here, it is a personality disorder."
Prosecutor John Reading stated that psychopathic behavior was not a reason for diminished responsibility, setting up the arguments both parties will make during the trial.
Once the jury was confirmed by midday on Monday, the judge explained they would have to decide if it is a case of murder or manslaughter.
The jury will view 30 minutes of "highly graphic" video on Tuesday that will not viewable for the public in the courtroom, though the sound will still be audible.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, still retains a British legal system after being handed back to China in 1997. Jutting's case is being tried in English.
The case is being closely watched by the 300,000-strong migrant domestic helpers community in Hong Kong. Outside the High Court, about a dozen of their representatives held placards reading “Justice for Wanchai Murder Victim” and “Stop Violence”.
Bank of America has previously said Jutting was an employee but it has not said why he left or given any timeframe.
Jutting was found fit to plea after undergoing psychiatric assessment at the end of 2014 after being charged for the double murder.
According to contemporaries at Cambridge University, Jutting attended Peterhouse, the oldest college, and was president of the Cambridge University History society. He was also a cross-country runner and a rower.
(Reporting by Farah Master, additional reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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