Notorious gangster dead - Ruthless armed robber Yip Kai-foon brought terror to the streets of HK

Top News | Phoebe Ng 20 Apr 2017

Notorious assault-rifle-brandishing armed robber Yip Kai-foon has died of cancer.

Yip, 55, died in Queen Mary Hospital yesterday. Dubbed the "King of Robbers," he masterminded a series of armed robberies of jewelry shops in the 1980s and 1990s and became the most iconic name in Hong Kong's robbery lore.

Not only was he renowned and feared for brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle on the crowded streets of Hong Kong, Yip was also an escape artist who the police failed to capture for almost seven years.

At the peak of his fearsome career, Yip had a bounty of HK$1 million on his head and was Hong Kong's most wanted criminal.

He was finally recaptured in1996 after a shootout with police that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

In his most infamous heist, Yip engaged in a gunfight with police on the streets of Mong Kok in 1993. Over 80 shots were fired in the shootout, killing a female pedestrian.

In 1996, he was sentenced to 41 years in the maximum security Stanley Prison.

He suffered from cancer in his later years and was sent to Queen Mary Hospital on April 1 after complaining of discomfort. His condition deteriorated and he was certified dead at 1.02am yesterday, the Correctional Services Department said. According to its spokesman, Yip required continuous medical care and follow-up by both the institutional hospital and the public hospital.

Yip was born in Guangdong in 1961 and was smuggled into Hong Kong when he was 17. He started work in a fan factory but, in 1984, he was involved in a string of heists in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui.

He was captured for the first time the same year and sentenced to 18 years for possessing firearms and handling stolen goods. The sentence was reduced to 16 years on appeal.

He managed to escape in 1989 when he faked an appendicitis to get himself transferred to Queen Mary Hospital.

Armed with broken bottles, he jumped his two police guards in the toilet and escaped by hijacking a van.

From 1991, he staged several daring robberies that netted over HK$10 million worth of jewelry while brandishing an AK-47 to make good his escape.

Yip became Hong Kong's most wanted man, with police offering a HK$1 million reward for his capture. But he remained at large for nearly seven years.

He was finally recaptured after sneaking back into Hong Kong from the mainland in a boat carrying guns and explosives.

He was shot in the back during a shootout in Kennedy Town, leaving him wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life and ending his criminal career.

In 1996, he was jailed for 41 years for possessing arms and ammunition without a license and for escaping from legal custody.

The sentence was reduced to 36 years following an appeal.

Yip's legend continues today, thanks to films revolving around his crime spree.

He was portrayed by actor Richie Jen Hsien-chi in The Trivisa, a crime thriller that scooped five major awards earlier this month at the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards.

Earlier productions featuring Yip's story included Most Dangerous Man in 2010, King of Robbers in 1996 and the documentary Hong Kong's King of Thieves.

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