Chinese 'serial killer' caught after 20 years on the run

Lao Rongzhi was arrested at the shopping centre where she worked as a watch seller.
PHOTO: Weibo

A Chinese woman accused of murdering seven people, including a three-year-old girl, has been captured after 20 years on the run.

Lao Rongzhi, 45, escaped when her boyfriend Fa Ziying was caught by police in Hefei, Anhui province, in July 1999, and had been living under a false identity since then.

Fa initially refused to tell police anything about his girlfriend and later provided false information that helped her cover her tracks.

The 35-year-old eventually confessed to kidnapping and killing seven people and was executed in December 1999.

Police said last Friday that Lao had been arrested in a shopping centre where she worked selling watches in Xiamen, a city in the southeastern province of Fujian.

She was arrested as part of Operation Cloud Sword, a national operation targeting fraudsters and fugitives, but police did not say how they had managed to track her down.

Lao, was a 19-year-old primary schoolteacher when she met Fa, who had already served eight years in jail for armed robbery. She soon left her job and is accused of taking part in a series of crimes over a three-year period.

Police say that she posed as a prostitute to lure Fa's first victim - a man surnamed Xiong - to an address in Nanchang in the eastern province of Jiangxi in 1996.

The couple are accused of stealing his jewellery and forcing him to tell them his home address before killing him.

They are then alleged to have gone to his house and killed his wife and three-year-old daughter before stealing more than 200,000 yuan (S$39,000).

The following year they are accused of kidnapping and killing two prostitutes and stealing watches, phones and money from them.

The pair moved to Hefei in Anhui province in 1999, where two more people were murdered.

Lao’s former boyfriend Fa Ziying was executed in December 1999.
PHOTO: Weibo

Police say the pair had built a cage at the property and then lured a man named Yin to the flat and held him for ransom.

Fa then tricked a carpenter into visiting the property, and killed him in front of Yin to force him to hand over a 300,000 yuan ransom.

But when Fa went to collect the money from Yin's wife she managed to contact police, who cornered the killer and arrested him after a shoot-out in which he was wounded in the thigh.

But by this time Yin had already been killed and Lao was able to cover her tracks and escape.

Fa's defence lawyer, Yu Xi, told the Chongqing Morning Post on Sunday that "his refusal to co-operate and his cover-up provided time for Lao to escape".

He said that his client had told him that he always killed his victims - adding that he only felt he was "committing a sin" when he killed the three-year-old girl.

The lawyer added that Fa had refused to offer any defence when he went on trial. "He told me his best ending would be to go straight from the crime scene to the execution site," Yu said.

Police in Xiamen said that Lao had been transferred to custody in Nanchang, the site of the first three killings, and was expected to go on trial there.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.