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Woman loses final appeal of bid to be declared 'wife' of slain West Van millionaire

Five women who all had children with a West Vancouver playboy prior to his gruesome killing testified during an original trial. The estate will now be split among the man's children.
supreme court of canada
The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a woman's claim to have been the legal spouse of a slain West Vancouver

A Chinese woman who was one of five mothers who had children with a West Vancouver millionaire prior to his slaying has lost a final legal battle to convince the justice system that she was the man’s wife.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the woman's application to appeal her case to Canada's highest court Aug. 4.

As is usual, the court did not give reasons for choosing not to hear the case.

The decision marks the end of a lengthy legal fight by the woman, referred to in court documents as "Mother 1," to be declared the legal spouse of Gang Yuan, a West Vancouver multi-millionaire who was slain on the North Shore seven years ago.

The dismissal of the appeal means the woman will not be entitled to a share of half of Yuan's estate, worth up to an estimated $21 million.

In a earlier decision, handed down Dec. 9, 2021, a panel of three B.C. Court of Appeal justices dismissed the woman’s appeal of an original B.C. Supreme Court decision that had ruled she was not a spouse of 42-year-old Gang Yuan prior to his killing in May 2015.

The end of the legal fight means the estate will instead be split between Yuan's five children.

Millionaire dismembered in British Properties mansion

Yuan left no will when his body was found chopped up in his British Properties mansion in 2015.

While Yuan was not legally married, following Yuan's death, two women came forward, each claiming to be his wife. One of those women reached a settlement and withdrew her claim partway through the civil trial over the estate.

The other woman, Mother 1, (whose name is shielded by a publication ban) argued in court that she considered herself Yuan's wife. She met and moved in with Yuan in China when she was 16 and he was 30, had a child with him and continued a close relationship with his family over a number of years.

Her claim was complicated, however, by the fact her relationship with Yuan was happening "at the same time as relations with four other women who testified at the trial," who also had children with Yuan, the original trial judge, Justice Elliot Myers, noted.

Playboy had relationships, children with five women

In their testimony at the original trial, each of the five mothers described how Yuan pursued them, told them he wanted to settle down, met their parents and paid for apartments for them. He also encouraged the women to have his children - in two cases flying the pregnant women to other countries so they could give birth there and obtain citizenship for their children - while conducting similar relationships with the others.

The original trial judge pointed to Yuan’s lack of intent as a significant reason for rejecting the woman’s claim that she was in a marriage-like relationship with Yuan.

"Rather, his actions demonstrate that his intentions were to live the life of a wealthy bachelor ... a playboy, without being committed in a marriage-like way to any woman.”

The B.C. appeal court ruled that the original trial judge’s decision that there had never been a marriage-like relationship between the two still stood.

Businessman shot twice at close range

Li Zhao, the 60-year-old husband of Yuan’s cousin, was found guilty of manslaughter in Yuan’s death and of interfering with his body by cutting it up with a saw into over 100 pieces at the British Properties mansion the two shared.

During the criminal trial in B.C. Supreme Court, court heard the two men got into a violent altercation after Yuan made a business proposition to Zhao that included allowing Yuan to marry Zhao's daughter, Florence.

At the time, Florence Zhao, who was in her 20s, was starring in the Vancouver-based reality TV series Ultra Rich Asian Girls, and the mansion where Yuan, Zhao and their extended families lived had been featured in the series.

Justice Terence Schultes found that Yuan was shot twice at close range by Zhao, with a small-calibre .17 rifle, in the driveway of their home at 963 King Georges Way after an earlier fight involving a hammer inside the mansion. An autopsy found Yuan died of a gunshot wound to the neck.

But Schultes said he was left with a reasonable doubt that Zhao intended to kill Yuan during the violent altercation – convicting him of manslaughter rather than murder.

Zhao was handed a 10 and a half year sentence in October 2020. But that sentence was reduced by the lengthy period of time Zhao had already spent in jail, so that Zhao would only serve an additional two years and four months in jail for his crimes.

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