In a rage and high on crystal meth, a Vietnamese refugee squatting in the sunroom of an unoccupied Melbourne, Australia, home lashed out wildly.
His partner, a mother of two who detested his drug-taking, called him out for it. He asked her to “stop nagging” and “shut up” before grabbing hold of a metal vacuum cleaner pole and beating her to death with it.
Hoa Thi Huynh, 44, stopped breathing and was most likely dead before her killer, partner Phuc Thien Tang, 50, did the unthinkable.
He grabbed a 28-inch samurai sword he had purchased to protect Huynh from a former lover and stabbed her in the face with it. The sword went through Huynh’s nostril and into her brain. It was still there when her body was discovered.
In Australian Supreme Court on Monday, Tang was sentenced to 25 years in prison with a minimum term of 20 years. Justice Lesley Taylor said his crime was “detestable” but that what happened after “demonstrates that you had no regard for anything except your own interests.”
She lashed out at Tang, labeling him a “coward” for failing to help his victim, leaving her to be discovered three days later in a room covered with blood, and for taking her debit card and trying in vain to withdraw $60 from an ATM.
Tang, dressed in black pants and a gray top and with his hair cropped short, did not speak when his sentence was handed down. He shuffled from the courtroom, expressionless.
Taylor told the court that the crime scene was a mess of blankets and “a strong odor was apparent” when Huynh’s body was discovered.
She said the victim’s brutal murder was compounded by what happened to her weeks earlier when another man “repeatedly raped her.”
Tang was asked to protect her, so he purchased the sword and an imitation handgun and confronted her attacker.
“I am going to kill you,” he told the other man. “I am going to stab you until you die because you took my wife.”
He later threatened to burn the man’s house down and demanded “a few thousand dollars” from his niece. Tang told her that he would kill her and her mother if she did not pay up.
Tang, the son of a South Vietnamese ranking officer who was killed during the Vietnam War, moved to Australia at the age of 15 to escape military service.
He spent a year in a refugee camp before being selected to immigrate to Australia. He spoke no English, had a difficult time at school and rarely worked. He received welfare benefits for the majority of his adult life and met Huynh in 2012 when the pair became romantically involved.
His drug-taking was consistent. The court heard he injected between 0.1 and 0.2 grams of methamphetamine daily despite the fact that the effect of the drug was known to augment his anger.
On the night Huynh was beaten to death, she told her partner she did not like him taking drugs.
“Huynh disliked your habit,” Taylor said. “Upon your return to the squat house during the early hours of (that morning), you both argued about it.”
“You told Huynh to stop nagging you. Nonetheless, she continued to voice her concerns.”
After killing Huynh, fleeing the scene and failing to withdraw money from a nearby ATM, Tang returned home. He took Huynh’s purse, tossed her belongings in a garden and slept on the streets for 13 days before he was arrested.
Police recovered from the scene Tang’s sword and a vacuum cleaner pole with “blood and strands of hair attached to it.”
Pathologists found it difficult to ascertain the exact cause of death but did find the victim suffered multiple blunt force injuries to the left side of her face. She also had blood in the trachea, stomach and duodenum, indicating she had swallowed and aspirated blood prior to her death.
The marks on her hands and wrists made it clear she had struggled and tried to defend herself.
Victim impact statements from Huynh’s two sons express “shock and grief.”
“Each of them speak of missing the small, ordinary interactions with their mother and of a profound sadness that important future events in their lives will not be shared with her,” Taylor said.
She told the court the boys are “broken and miserable.”
Tang, who for the first time in his adult life is now drug-free, was recently diagnosed with HIV. Taylor said his prospects for rehabilitation are “guarded at best.”
He will not be eligible for parole until at least 2038.
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