Takeaway owner who murdered woman has sentence cut on appeal

UK TODAY

Zhi Min Chen will now serve at least 16 years before being able to apply for parole.

A takeaway owner who was jailed for life after murdering a woman 20 years ago has had his minimum sentence cut by four years after winning his appeal.

Zhi Min Chen choked 21-year-old Tracey Wylde to death at her flat in Barmulloch, Glasgow in November 1997.

The 44-year-old was told by judge Lord Arthurson at the High Court in Glasgow that he would have to serve at least 20 years before he could apply for parole.

Lord Arthurson passed the sentence after hearing how Chen, a Chinese immigrant, panicked in the aftermath of taking Ms Wylde’s life.

The court heard how he thought Scottish detectives would send him back to China where he would have to deal with corrupt police officers.

On Thursday, Donald Findlay QC, for Chen, told the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh that Lord Arthurson had misinterpreted the law in fixing the punishment part.

Mr Findlay argued that people in similar positions to Chen, who has no previous convictions, didn’t receive as lengthy a punishment part as his client had.

He told appeal judges Lord Menzies, Lord Drummond Young and Lord Glennie that Chen’s sentence should be reduced to bring it into line with other offenders who were convicted in similar circumstances of comparable crimes.

The appeal judges agreed and told Chen he’d serve at least 16 years before he could apply for parole.

However, Lord Menzies warned him that this wouldn’t mean he’d be automatically released after serving the 16-year period.

Members of Ms Wylde’s family sat and wept in the public benches as the judges gave their decision.

He added: “The sentence remains one of life imprisonment. The punishment part means the time which must elapse before the accused is able to apply for parole.

“The matter of whether an accused person can apply for parole is a matter for the parole board who assess whether the accused poses a risk to the safety of the public.

“It is possible that a person serving a life sentence is never released from prison.”

Chen, of Anniesland, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Wylde at the High Court in Glasgow earlier this year.

Police had described Ms Wylde as having a “turbulent lifestyle” – she was working as a prostitute at the time of her death.

She had been raised by her grandparents before moving into her own flat and giving birth to her daughter in August 1994.

The court heard how Ms Wylde had gone into Glasgow city centre on November 23 1997 and was last spotted on CCTV in the city’s red light area at about 3.20am the following morning.

Prosecutor Steven Borthwick said her neighbour Mary McAnemy heard arguing in Ms Wylde’s flat at about 4.40am.

The last thing she heard was the door being slammed shut and keys being rattled.

Her body was discovered after she failed to show for an appointment at a support group. The cause of death was found to be natural strangulation.

DNA from an unknown man was found on Ms Wylde’s body and clothes as well as a number of fingerprints in the area.

A large scale manhunt lasting two and a half years had initially failed to catch her killer. A cold case review in 2013 was also unsuccessful.

But Chen was eventually arrested in July 2018 after being held for an alleged assault in Cowcaddens, Glasgow,.

Chen originally denied any involvement in the murder but his fingerprints were the same as those found at the crime scene.

Mr Findlay acted for Chen at the original proceedings and he told the court that his client had came to Scotland illegally in the mid 1990s.

The court heard that he was scared of people traffickers in his homeland and lived a “lonely and solitary life” here.

He started to use prostitutes and met Ms Wylde. The pair had a violent argument and Chen attacked her.

On Thursday, Mr Findlay told the court that his client recognised that the crime had “terrible consequences” for Ms Wylde’s family and friends.

But he said that justice meant that Chen’s punishment part had to be similar to other first offenders who had been convicted of comparable crimes.

The appeal judges agreed.

Lord Menzies added: “We will quash the sentence. The new punishment part will be one of 16 years.”

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