25 August 2019
Jesse Lorena's body and that of another victim were found on the 31st floor of this luxury apartment tower in Hong Kong's Wan Chai red light district. Next to it is a favorite expat haunt. Photo: The Guardian
Jesse Lorena's body and that of another victim were found on the 31st floor of this luxury apartment tower in Hong Kong's Wan Chai red light district. Next to it is a favorite expat haunt. Photo: The Guardian

Murdered Indonesian was out to enjoy herself on her last night

Jesse Lorena stopped by the Queen Victoria Bar on Friday, kissed the disc jockey and went into the night in Hong Kong’s red light district hoping to “enjoy myself”.

Six hours later, she was dead, her throat slashed, in an upscale apartment, the first victim in a grisly double murder that has shocked this city of seven million who pride themselves on safety and order.

Details about the life and the last hours of Lorena, an Indonesian woman who was Seneng Mujiasih in real life, are only now emerging five days after police found her body on the 31st floor of the ritzy apartment block. 

“She gave me two kisses on the cheek as always,” Robert van den Bosch, a 47-year-old Dutchman was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Van den Bosch works as a disc jockey in the Wan Chai bar district and knew her for three years.

“She said, ‘I am going to enjoy myself tonight’.”

Lorena, 29, was dressed in a leopard-skin jumpsuit and was on her way to a Halloween party at her favorite haunt, a bar two doors down. 

On Nov. 1, the day her body was found by police, the decomposing body of 23-year-old Sumarti Ningsih, an Indonesian tourist, was discovered in a suitcase in the same apartment.

Briton Rurik Jutting, a 29-year-old former Bank of America Corp. trader, has been charged for the killings. He appeared in court on Monday but did not enter a plea or seek bail.

Mujiasih entered Hong Kong in December 2010 on a two-year visa to work as a domestic helper.

When her employer terminated her contract 13 months later, she had two weeks to leave, the Indonesian consulate said. Instead, she overstayed, according to Bloomberg.

She still owed money she had borrowed for arranging her employment and couldn’t afford to return home,  Lea Icut,  a friend, told Bloomberg by phone from Indonesia.

To find another job would have required flying back to Indonesia and paying a recruitment agency a fee equivalent to about six months of the legal minimum salary of HK$4,110 (US$530), a practice which lands virtually every domestic worker in debt.

By staying, she became part of Hong Kong’s band of undocumented immigrants who make up one of the city’s most vulnerable groups. Many lack the ability to speak Chinese and fear deportation if they report violence to the police or get into trouble.

“They are living at a level of precarity you wouldn’t warrant in a world-class city like Hong Kong,” said Kay McArdle, chief executive officer of Pathfinders, a nonprofit organization that helps immigrant women in Hong Kong.

“The reality is, these women fall far and fast through Hong Kong’s otherwise world-class social and welfare safety net.”

Mujiasih was ultimately able to send money home to build a new house for her family, according to van den Bosch, who identified her as a friend in photographs shown to him by Bloomberg.

Ningsih, on the other hand, had few choices.

The second-youngest of four children, she was the sole breadwinner for the family, with no husband and her own five-year-old son, plus her parents, her two brothers and her sister’s child to support.

During a two-year stint working in Hong Kong starting in 2011, she sent back about 3 million rupiah (US$248) a month, according to her father, 58-year-old rice farmer Ahmad Kaliman.

He was told she worked as a waitress, he said.

The amount she sent back was about equal to the minimum monthly wage for a factory worker in Jakarta and the family relied on it to buy staples, her father said. He has only able to earn 2.4 million rupiah each harvest, four times a year. Ningsih never went to high school.

After returning home in 2013, Ningsih took a disc jockey course and then flew back to Hong Kong. She had telephoned her father in October to say she would return on Nov. 2.

Instead, he received the news of her death, according to Bloomberg.

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