On February 24, three days after Abby Choi was reported missing, parts of her dismembered body were found in a remote village in the northern reaches of Hong Kong. The model’s skull and ribs had been cooked into a soup.
Until then, nothing about Choi’s life appeared less than perfect. The eldest of three daughters of a Chinese family that reportedly made its fortune in construction on the mainland, the 28-year-old influencer and mother of four was a rising star on Hong Kong’s competitive social circuit.
Her partner, Chris Tam, is the son of a successful restaurateur. Choi was friends with high-profile locals such as model Moka Fang and singer turned lawyer Bernard Cheng.
And in Hong Kong’s insular fashion world, Choi was viewed as something of a rising star, with about 80,000 followers on Instagram. A regular guest at the Paris couture shows, Choi had a five-foot, one-inch, 88-pound frame and was dressed in many luxury brands’ gowns and jewels.
The authorities believe Choi was the victim of a pre-meditated murder orchestrated by her ex-husband, Alex Kwong, and his family, allegedly in a dispute over control of a $9.3 million luxury apartment in the prestigious Kadoorie Hill neighborhood of Kowloon. They have arrested seven suspects thus far, including Alex Kwong; his father, Kwong Kau, a retired police officer; and his older brother Anthony Kwong, who worked as Choi’s chauffeur. The gruesome details shocked the more than seven million residents of a city that many consider to be one of the safest in the world. Yet again, it took a bizarre turn this week when another aspiring influencer, Irene Pun, was apprehended in neighboring Shenzhen, allegedly for having aided Alex Kwong’s attempted escape.
The model’s skull and ribs had been cooked into a soup.
Lung Mei Tsuen, the central scene of the crime, is one of a string of small waterfront villages in the city’s northern reaches that stretch from the bustling Tai Po district to the Plover Cove Reservoir, to the east. A peaceful, recreational area, it is known for its bike path, organic farms, and decent Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. Next to the artificial beach is a marina, where one can rent paddleboats that look like yellow rubber ducks.
Late in the evening on February 24, five officers stood outside the apartment, which had allegedly been rented as a “kill house,” holding translucent plastic bags of evidence. The haul included a black raincoat, two chopping knives, a hammer, and a pale-purple handbag that resembled one of the Hermès Birkin bags that Choi’s mother had once posted on one of her social-media accounts.
Inside the apartment, they also found an electric saw, a meat grinder, face shields, and a sail covering the walls. The victim’s legs had been stuffed into a small refrigerator. The South China Morning Post reported that two deep pots found there contained flesh, Choi’s decapitated head, along with radishes and carrots underneath a thick layer of fat. Police also discovered blood spatters in a nearby vehicle believed to be where Choi was killed, likely by a blow to the back of her head.
The case has consumed Hong Kongers partly because of the sensational speculation surrounding it. At one point, there was a rumor that the police had found the crime scene only after the victim’s mother, Cheung Yin-fa, said that Choi had come to her in a dream, saying she was in a place surrounded by monkeys and barking dogs. (The police later clarified that they had ultimately found the body’s location after checking G.P.S. records of the car in which she was driven and home-surveillance footage.) The circumstances surrounding how a young model could afford to purchase such a lavish home for her former in-laws—and what would inspire her to do so—has also prompted intense scrutiny about the unusually close relationship between the two families. The narrative is beginning to resemble that of a soap opera.
But the story has also struck a nerve because Abby Choi was beautiful and fabulous. In December, she was a guest at some of the most exclusive events in Hong Kong, including K11 Night, which the retail guru Adrian Cheng has positioned as the “Asia’s Met Gala.” She was also at Chanel’s unveiling of its annual Christmas decorations at the Peninsula hotel, and she had just returned from Paris, where she attended the February couture shows and posed with the designers Giambattista Valli; Pierpaolo Piccioli, of Valentino; and Zuhair Murad.
While hundreds of officers continued to search cemeteries and landfills across the city for additional remains, prosecutors have begun to lay out their case against the Kwong family. In court, they argued that the dispute arose over the apartment that Choi purchased in 2019 under her father-in-law’s name but recently wanted to sell.
On February 21, Choi was abducted after being picked up by Anthony Kwong to visit her daughter. Four days later, her ex-husband, Alex Kwong, was arrested at the Tung Chung Development Pier, on Lantau Island, while allegedly trying to flee the city by speedboat. He had $64,000 and several watches worth about $500,000 in his possession.
Other charges have since been filed against Alex Kwong’s mother, Jenny Li, and three additional alleged accomplices, including a masseuse (described as Kwong Kau’s paramour) who helped rent the kill house. Several others have been implicated in Alex Kwong’s attempted escape, including the other influencer Pun, who wore black leather leggings and Chanel ankle boots during her perp walk. The four members of the Kwong family have been remanded to custody without bail and are expected to return to court in early May. On March 7, Choi’s mother asked for a Hong Kong High Court injunction to stop the Kwongs from selling or profiting from any sale of the apartment.
One week before her death, Choi posted on Instagram for the last time: she was finally on the cover of a magazine. “From Hong Kong to the cover of L’Officiel Monaco, my journey as a style icon continues,” she wrote in the caption.
Eric Wilson is a veteran fashion reporter currently based in Hong Kong. He was previously editorial director of Tatler Asia Group, fashion-news director at InStyle, and a reporter at The New York Times and WWD