The Tragic 1991 Murder Of Notable Cardiac Surgeon Victor Chang

Dr. Victor Chang was on his way to work that morning. He was a world-renowned heart surgeon from Sydney, Australia who made saving people his life's work. But on July 4, 1991, two desperate men looking for easy money attempted to shake Dr. Chang down with tragic results, according to The Age. The doctor who had created a less expensive artificial heart valve that saved numerous lives found himself face to face with two Malaysian men who had just hit his Mercedes with their Toyota, per The Economic Times and The Sydney Morning Herald. Chang didn't realize the seriousness of his situation.

"How could you do this?" Dr. Chang asked, looking at the damage to his new car. The men answered him by name in Chinese before telling him they needed money. One opened his jacket to show Dr. Chang that he had a gun. "How much do you want?" Dr. Chang asked before seeing a passerby and telling them to call the police. One of the men shot the heart surgeon twice at point-blank range, the first bullet ripping through his cheek and the second entering his brain, killing him.

Bungling criminals-turned-killers

The lives of the killers and their victim couldn't have been more different. According to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Dr. Victor Chang had personally saved hundreds of patients through his pioneering heart transplant surgery and as the head of the National Heart Transplant Program at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. He'd saved even more people through his work on two different heart devices.

His killers, Phillip Choon Tee Lim and Chiew Seng Liew, were out of work and looking for a big score. Liew was a Malaysian national with a criminal record and was in Australia on a tourist visa, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Lim was an out-of-work cook with large gambling debts. They also convinced a third man, Stanley Ng, to help, but he dropped out before the killing and would later turn the state's evidence against the other two men. They picked Dr. Chang out of a magazine that had an article about prominent businessmen and laid out an ever-changing series of plans to get money from him. They considered holding Chang's family hostage until he gave them $3 million but scuttled the plan at the last minute. After other botched attempts, they succeeded in cornering Dr. Chang on July 4. They killed him without getting any money.

Sentenced to prison

The attempted robbery and murder were so poorly planned and executed — Chiew Seng Liew dropped his wallet at the scene — that police initially thought it was a setup and the wallet had been planted to throw them off, per The Sydney Morning Herald. The police quickly arrested Liew and Stanley Ng, but Phillip Choon Tee Lim escaped to Malaysia, where he hid out for four months before being caught and returned to Australia for trial.

Liew, who had shot Dr. Chang, pleaded guilty to murder in December 1992, and a judge sentenced him to 26 years in prison, per The Age. Lim, after a jury found him guilty of the murder, got a minimum of 18 years. Liew served 21 years in prison before the government deported him back to Malaysia in 2012, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Lim served 18 years and was also deported to Malaysia in 2010. Following Chiew's release, he begged Dr. Chang's family for forgiveness. "I made a mistake," he told the Seven network (via The Sydney Morning Herald). "I did the wrong thing and made the family suffer ... You know I want to apologize for the family."