A University of Hong Kong professor whose wife's decomposing body was found in a suitcase in his office bought two sets of wooden boards to cover up the murder, fashioning one into a makeshift coffin and using the other as a decoy, a police source said.

But the plan of associate professor Cheung Kie-chung, 53, was foiled when officers discovered the double purchase and swooped on his office on Tuesday to find the corpse, according to a law enforcement source.

Cheung, from HKU's department of mechanical engineering, was arrested after police made the grisly discovery, the South China Morning Post reports.

Police escort Cheung Kie-chung to his home at Wei Lun Hall as they arrest him. Photo / SCMP
Police escort Cheung Kie-chung to his home at Wei Lun Hall as they arrest him. Photo / SCMP

The source said that, knowing CCTV cameras at Wei Lun Hall - where he lives and where the alleged murder took place - would film him moving the body from the building, Cheung made a box from six wooden boards.

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He had already reported his wife missing since August 17, claiming she walked out after a row, so knew police were investigating.

He put the body in the box and took it to his office in the Haking Wong Building on HKU's Pokfulam Road campus.

"This box was well sealed with window glue, to prevent blood seepage and contain any smell emitted from the decomposing body," the source said.

He said Cheung left the other set of boards in a workshop in the same building.

Police were told Cheung Kie-chung had a dispute with his wife. Photo / SCMP
Police were told Cheung Kie-chung had a dispute with his wife. Photo / SCMP

Asked what happened to the box he was carrying in the CCTV footage, Cheung claimed he used it to deliver something, then dismantled it and left the pieces in the workshop.

But police soon discovered he had bought two sets of wooden boards and, noting that the CCTV footage never showed the wife leaving Wei Lun Hall, they made a surprise raid on Cheung's office and found the body there on Tuesday afternoon.

After his arrest, the suspect remained tight-lipped and uncooperative, according to the source.

Cheung reported his wife missing on August 20, citing the dispute, which he said happened in the early hours of August 17.

On August 16, the wife argued with their daughter, apparently over toilet hygiene. The daughter, who is 28 and works as a corruption investigator, left home.

The next day, the wife blamed Cheung for not supporting her during the earlier argument, sparking a row between the couple. After that, Cheung reported her missing.

A source said the killing was probably an impulsive act, because of the errors Cheung made, leading officers to the body.

Hong Kong police with evidence from the murder investigation. Photo / SCMP
Hong Kong police with evidence from the murder investigation. Photo / SCMP

Police sources said they would study the result of the postmortem examination before deciding whether to lay a murder charge.

The victim was found in her underwear, with an electric wire tied around her neck, suggesting she could have been strangled.

Police said they were yet to determine the time and cause of death, but the source said it seemed the woman had been dead for days when she was found.

Cheung is a member of the university's governing council and vice-chairman of its Academic Staff Association.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, police escorted Cheung, hooded and handcuffed, to Wei Lung Hall.

Cheung is the warden of the hall where he lives with his family, including the daughter and his 26-year-old dentist son.

Superintendent Law Kwok-hoi said officers had been in contact with the couple's two children and confirmed the family disputes.

Police outside Wei Lun Hall where Cheung Kie-chung lived with his family. Photo / SCMP
Police outside Wei Lun Hall where Cheung Kie-chung lived with his family. Photo / SCMP

His daughter had posted fliers around Pok Fu Lam listing her mother as missing, Law said. The fliers identified her as Tina Chan and described her as being of medium build with mid-length hair.

In an email sent to hall residents on Monday, Cheung said: "You may have noticed the presence of police officers in [the hall] and the surrounding areas in the past few days.

"They are here to investigate a missing person case involving my family. There is nothing to worry about among the students. I apologise for the anxiety that this has caused."

Former HKU scholar Roger Wong Hoi-fung, who met Cheung last Friday, said: "He was 100 per cent normal. He was sharp as usual, like he could pinpoint a misspelled word from a document."

Wong recalled he had briefly met Cheung's wife some years ago, describing the couple as "completely normal".

"They were no different from any middle-aged couple," Wong said, describing his shock at hearing about the arrest. He spoke of Cheung as a "well-respected, principled man who would fight for justice".

-South China Morning Post