By: Lee Kyung-min

The two key figures in the “Itaewon murder” case have met with each other 18 years after the 1997 incident.

Edward Lee took the witness stand at the Seoul Central District Court Wednesday in a trial against Arthur John Patterson, who is now being tried on charges of murdering Korean college student Cho Joong-pil in a Burger King bathroom in Itaewon, Seoul. Lee had been acquitted in 1998 for the same crime.

Since the acquittal in 1998, Lee has constantly claimed that Patterson was the real killer.

When prosecutors asked Lee if there was any possibility that someone else besides him or Patterson had killed the victim, Lee said no, adding that he has consistently said that since the initial investigation.

“I saw him (Patterson) stabbing the victim,” he said.

Although Lee acknowledged that he went into the bathroom first, he repeatedly denied that he killed the victim.

“I went to wash my hands and I saw Arthur take a look into the stall, and then he started stabbing Cho. I was shocked and I turned around and I remember Cho trying to hit Arthur with his right hand I believe, then I saw Arthur stabbing. Keep on stabbing Cho,” Lee said.

When asked why he observed Patterson’s action, he said the bathroom was small and he was looking at his face in the mirror, and he saw the stabbing. “After Arthur stabbed him, he kind of hit me on the right and left the bathroom.”

Lee also claimed that he was threatened and deprived of sleep for 17 hours during the earlier investigation. He also said he was not properly provided with an interpreter during the whole interrogation.

But Patterson’s lawyer said that, according to Patterson, Lee stabbed Cho and he was under the influence of drugs at that time. He also said some of the details of the crime as described by the prosecution claimed were not true, adding that the prosecution and the court mistranslated Patterson’s words.

Prosecutors said they would implement objective and scientific methods, and provide physical evidence to corroborate their claims, saying the prosecution’s determination at that time of the incident was largely based on testimony from the two.

When the judge allowed the victim’s mother, Lee Bok-su, to speak, she demanded that the court sentence whoever is responsible to the heaviest punishment available.

“Watching the hearing for two hours, I felt like I was going back 18 years. One of the two definitely killed my son, and they have been out on the streets, living like nothing happened. I plead with the court to give the killer the harshest punishment, please,” Lee said.

Earlier, Patterson declined to have his case tried under the Korean jury system.

Patterson was extradited to Korea in September to stand trial 16 years after he left Korea in 1999 after the prosecution failed to renew an overseas travel ban on him.