Jan 7 2014
A multi-millionaire has been jailed for life after murdering his pregnant wife - even though her body has never been found.
Robert Ekaireb, 39, was found guilty last month of killing his wife, Li Hua Cao, following a row about her previous work as a lap dancer in October 2006.
Members of the victim's family in her native China became suspicious and they reported her missing in February 2007. A jury found him guilty of murder last month.
Old Bailey judge Nicholas Cooke described property entrepreneur Ekaireb, of Hendon in north London, as "a callous, manipulative and selfish hypocrite".
Ekaireb will serve 22 years - less the 209 days spent in custody - before being considered for release.
The trial had heard Ekaireb lived in Hampstead with his wife, 27, who worked as a waitress and dancer in London's Chinatown.
The couple had met while Miss Cao, who took the anglicised name Lisa, was living in Dublin and working as a lap dancer - a career that defence counsel Michael Skelley said "tormented" Ekaireb.
After a whirlwind romance, the couple married in 2006 - three months before she was killed, the trial heard.
Sentencing today, Judge Cooke recalled evidence that the victim was 19 weeks pregnant at the time she was killed.
He said: "This was the murder of a pregnant wife - in that sense you ended two lives.
"I accept that this is a case of no evidence of pre-meditation. It was also a case of extreme domestic violence.
"The evidence is this case exposed you as a callous, manipulative and selfish hypocrite."
The victim's brother, Li Bin Cao, was in court for the verdict but declined to comment after sentencing.
In his witness statement, on behalf of his family, he told the court of the anguish which had overcome them since learning of his sister's disappearance.
He said: "It was very hard to grasp and we are struggling to accept the fact that our beloved Li Hua is gone forever.
"We will never understand why he (Ekaireb) killed Li Hua. She was a social, loving, warm person.
"We will never see her alive again, and even in her death she is missing.
"We don't know how to move on with our lives with no Li Hua to bury."
The court heard that the death had had a particularly profound effect on the victim's mother in China, while the family were so fearful of what the news would do to the health of her grandfather that he is yet to be told.
The judge said: "When there is no body, the bereaved will suffer agonies of false hope.
"They are left, potentially permanently, without the ability to grieve in the way the family of those with the body returned to them can grieve."
Mr Skelley said Ekaireb had a long-term partner, a two-year-old child with another baby on the way, and described the death as a double-tragedy.
The defendant, described by the judge as being of "considerable wealth", was told to pay costs of £120,815.05.