WARNING: This story contains graphic details.
When Chinese-born, West Vancouver-based multimillionaire Gang Yuan was beaten with a hammer, shot twice, and his body chopped into 108 pieces in 2015, the simplest part of the story ended with a manslaughter conviction, but the fate of Yuan’s fortune remained very unclear.
Now the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal from the woman whose identity is protected by a ban but who is described as Mother 1, the first of five women who had a child with Yuan and who claims to be his spouse.
Thursday’s dismissal of the leave to appeal application ends Mother 1’s lengthy legal battle to be declared his spouse, which, because Yuan died without a will, would have entitled her to half of his $7 to $21 million estate while Canadian law would have split the rest among his five children.
The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling and dismissed Mother 1’s spousal claim last December, finding no “marriage-like relationship” between her and Yuan, even though the two met before Yuan came to Canada and he supported her in China, where she lived with and cared for his parents.
As is customary, Canada’s highest court did not give reasons for its decision on Mother 1’s application.
The dispute over the estate was brushed with notoriety because of Yuan’s untimely and gory death at the hands of once-favoured business partner, Li Zhao.
Court documents from Zhao’s B.C. Supreme Court trial in 2020 trial show he disapproved of Yuan’s playboy lifestyle and treatment of women.
On May 2, 2015, the two fought viciously after Zhao believed Yuan first made disparaging remarks about an invention of Zhao’s and then compounded the offence by offering to marry Zhao’s beloved and only daughter as part of the price of financing the invention.
The documents detail a brutal and prolonged fight between the two men that only ended in the driveway of their home when Zhao, who told investigators he feared “life was at risk,” fired twice at close range from a rifle mainly used for shooting rabbits.
Yuan was hit in the neck and died in the driveway.
In finding Zhao guilty of manslaughter, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes, in his oral ruling delivered in October 2020, said that’s when things became “unquestionably bizarre.”
The 55-year-old even explained his grisly work in the garage of the home by agreeing with the family nanny, as she passed by, that he had been out hunting and had “hunted a bear.”
Zhao had earlier ordered his wife and elderly mother-in-law away from the scene, but they eventually asked a family friend to help them call police, and Zhao was arrested at his home the following morning and charged with second-degree murder.
Schultes ruled the Crown failed to prove the necessary intent to convict on that charge and found Zhao guilty of manslaughter and interfering with human remains, sentencing him to 10 years and six months on the two counts.
Because Zhao had never asked for bail while awaiting trial and the case was prolonged by delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sentence handed down almost two years ago was reduced to reflect credit for pretrial custody, leaving a total remaining term of two years, four months and eight days to be served for Yuan’s killing.
If Zhao does not seek early release, he will have completed his entire sentence by early 2023.