'Lost soul' found church after career of heists

Top News | Phoebe Ng 20 Apr 2017

Yip Kai-foon gained notoriety through a career of thieving. But after years of heists and escapes, he deeply regretted his crimes and became a Christian, according to a retired solicitor.

Mary Jean Reimer, who helped the gangster-turned-preacher in his later years, said he was "not as notorious" as people would have thought of him as a person.

"He regretted [his crimes] tremendously. He deeply regretted what he had done, all the time he had lost that could have been spent with his daughter - the love of his life," Reimer said.

"But he [made up for] his wrongdoings. He even fought for the welfare of other inmates."

For instance, Yip campaigned to allow prisoners to own their hot-water bottle.

Yip was wracked by cancer in his later years, and had asked for Chinese medicine treatment.

However, his request was rejected in a judicial review last year. A remorseful Yip also turned to Christianity in March 2004.

"I think he reformed from deep inside his heart," said Reimer, who frequently visited Yip until her retirement three years ago. "He regretted losing his freedom and causing fear to society."

Yip's losing battle against cancer while serving a 41-year jail term was not the ending he had hoped for, Reimer said.

"Yip had always hoped to speak to youngsters about his journey in church," she said. "He was due to be discharged in 2019, and he could not wait till that day."

Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, who helped Yip in his fight for prisoners' rights for 15 years, said Yip was friendly despite his gangster image.

"He was a loving and optimistic man who cared a lot about other inmates," Leung said.

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