British Columbia

'You're controlling this person': Did accused killer think he was inside a video game?

A man who has admitted to killing two strangers in their home in 2017 watched Wednesday as one of his defence lawyers played a series of violent video game clips that appeared to mimic elements of the random attack.

Defence lawyer claims Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam was functioning in video game world during killings

Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam is charged with first-degree murder in relation to the deaths of a couple in the Marpole area of Vancouver on Sept. 26, 2017. (Sketch by Jane Wolsak)

A man who has admitted to killing two strangers in their South Vancouver home in 2017 watched Wednesday as one of his defence lawyers played a series of violent video game clips that appeared to mimic elements of the random attack.

A day after Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam admitted in B.C. Supreme Court to attacking Richard Jones and Dianna Mah-Jones, the 29-year-old calmly explained the objectives of a first-person game that saw a principal character break into a home only to relentlessly pursue, kill and then repeatedly strike the corpse of a woman.

Kam's lawyer plans to argue that as a result of immersion into gaming and fantasy comic books, his client was suffering from a mental disorder that left him functioning as though he were inside the fictional world of a computer video game at the time of the killings.

"It's like you're controlling this person," Kam said in halting English as he explained the way that 'RPG' or role playing games work.

"You have the eyes of that person ... you can look around."

'They just dropped'

Kam is facing two charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jones, 68, and Mah-Jones, 64, on Sept. 26, 2017. After initially pleading not guilty, he took the stand on Monday and admitted to attacking and stabbing the couple.

Originally from Hong Kong, Kam moved to Calgary with his family before arriving in the Lower Mainland months before the killing. During school, he said he spent between 12 and 14 hours a day playing a variety of video games.

Diana Mah-Jones, 64, and Richard Jones, 68, as they appeared in an image on their Airbnb listing. Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam is on trial for murder in their deaths. (Airbnb.ca)

His lawyer will argue that Kam's intense involvement in the world of gaming amounts to a mental disorder that left him unable to appreciate the consequences of the real-life acts he undertook as though in a video game.

Kam wore a red pre-trial sweatshirt and sweatpants as he was led into court in the morning. He appeared in a light dress shirt in the afternoon. He wore black framed glasses, his hair cut short as a translator sat beside him.

Although his first language is Cantonese, Kam responded to questions in English.

He started his second day of testimony by describing the hours and days after the killings. He said he saw stories about the deaths on the local evening news the next day.

On the days that followed, he said he followed his usual routine: having breakfast, showering, reading comic books, playing video games, having lunch, sending out resumés, playing more video games and going onto the internet.

He was also asked about a penknife and hatchet that he bought at a nearby Canadian Tire two weeks before the attacks. Both weapons were found on the lawn of the victims' home. 

Kam said he didn't think he'd thrown either weapon away intentionally: "They just dropped."

Killing 'Hilda'

Defence lawyer Faisal Alamy then played a series of clips from a game called Skyrim, pausing at multiple points along the way to ask Kam about the way the game is planned and the logic behind certain moves.

The first clip began with the principal character being led to an execution block in a medieval setting as someone else is beheaded. The character is saved at the last minute as a dragon bursts through the sky.

Kam explained that the character then heads off to a tower in search of treasure and adventure.

The clips, which were recordings of Alamy playing the game, followed as the character walked into a series of rooms holding weapons in each hand.

At some point a female character named Hilda appears and the principal character pursues her until he ultimately strikes her. The screen then showed the woman lying on the ground, leg and torso exposed as the principal character strikes her dead body repeatedly with some kind of sword until the blade is covered in blood.

According to testimony from the first week of the trial, Mah-Jones was stabbed more than 100 times.

Kam told the lawyer that Hilda — the character in the game— was planning to warn the villagers of the player's presence. He said killing her was the only way to stop her from telling.

He struggled at times to explain the rules of a game that see players take certain actions to build life force and to protect themselves from enemies all around.

He also grinned as he explained some of the game techniques and the ways in which various actions taken within the game increase life force or stamina.

Kam was asked if there was any benefit to repeatedly chopping at a figure who is already dead in the game.

He said he wouldn't exactly call it a benefit, but it would make some people dislike a character.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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