A man charged with helping the Hong Kong intelligence service in the UK has been found dead

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Police stand next to a black forensic tent in Grenfell Park, Tuesday May 21, 2024, in Maidenhead, England, west of London, where Matthew Trickett was found dead, Sunday, May 19. Trickett, one of three men charged earlier this month with assisting Hong Kong authorities with gathering intelligence in the United Kingdom, died in unexplained circumstances, British police said Tuesday. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)

LONDON – A man accused of assisting Hong Kong authorities gather intelligence in the United Kingdom who was found dead in a park over the weekend had attempted suicide after he was charged, a prosecutor said.

Matthew Trickett, 37, was found dead in a park in Maidenhead, west of London, on Sunday afternoon, police said. They termed the death “unexplained” and were investigating.

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Trickett, 37, was one of three men charged earlier this month with agreeing to engage in information gathering, surveillance and acts of deception that were likely to materially assist the Hong Kong intelligence service from late 2023 to May 2. Prosecutors also alleged that the men forced entry into a U.K. residential address on May 1.

At a hearing last week, Prosecutor Kashif Malik had asked that Trickett be held in custody for his own welfare because he attempted suicide after he was charged.

The three defendants were bailed and due to appear Friday at London’s Central Criminal Court. No one has entered a plea.

“We are mourning the loss of a much-loved son, brother and family member," Trickett's family said in a statement. They asked for privacy.

British media said Trickett was formerly a Royal Marine who recently worked as a Home Office immigration enforcement officer. He was also reportedly the director of a security consultancy.

He was charged along with Chi Leung (Peter) Wai, 38, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63. The men appeared at a brief court hearing to confirm their identities on May 13.

Hong Kong authorities have confirmed that Yuen was the office manager of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London.

Trickett’s lawyer, Julian Hayes, said he was “shocked” at Tuesday’s news. He declined to comment, because investigations were ongoing.

Chinese authorities in the U.K. and Hong Kong have decried the charges, saying they were the latest in a series of “groundless and slanderous” accusations that the U.K. government has leveled against China.

Hong Kong’s government demanded that the U.K. provide full details on the allegations and protect the rights of the office manager of the trade office.

The spying charges came amid simmering tensions between Britain and China. U.K. officials have been increasingly vocal in warning about security threats from Beijing, and recently accused China of being behind a string of cyberespionage operations targeting politicians and Britain’s election watchdog.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said Britain is facing an increasingly dangerous future because of threats from an “axis of authoritarian states,” including Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

In another ongoing court case, two men, including a parliamentary researcher, were recently charged with spying for China. Christopher Cash and Christopher Berry were charged with violating the Official Secrets Act by providing information or documents that could be “useful to an enemy” — China — and “prejudicial to the safety or interests” of the U.K. between late 2021 and February 2023.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese control as a semi-autonomous territory in 1997.

More than 100,000 Hong Kongers have moved to the U.K. since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law triggered by the huge pro-democracy protests in the city in 2019. Britain’s government has established a fast-track immigration route for the migrants, many of whom want to settle in the U.K. because of dwindling civil liberties in their home city.

Rights groups have warned that Hong Kongers who have moved to Britain continue to face “transnational repression” by supporters of the Chinese government.

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