China’s notorious ‘serial killer’ left ample evidence in rape-murder spree but escaped capture for decades

An alleged serial killer in northwestern China left ample evidence while committing crimes over a span of 14 years, but avoided detection.

The Beijing News reported more details of the confession of Gao Chengyong, who is suspected of raping and murdering 11 woman and girls between 1988 and 2002.

After killing two women in 1988 and 1994, Gao allegedly committed four crimes in 1998, two of which occurred in a three-day period.

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He told the police he felt uncomfortable if he did not kill anyone. While riding his bike between Qingcheng and Baiyin, he explored the streets looking for young women walking alone, and then followed them home.

His crimes became increasingly cruel, with him cutting off his victims’ hands, ears or genitals, which he then threw into the Yellow River, Gao confessed.

The alleged killer left evidence at most of the murder scenes. In many cases, police found his fingerprints at the crime scene, including on the bodies of his victims, on a glass on a table and on a dormitory door.

In 1994, the culprit cleaned himself after killing a 19-year-old victim and left a bloody fingerprint in a public laundry room of her dormitory.

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He also made himself tea in the home of an eight-year-old girl he killed, in a case that police initially considered to have been committed by an acquaintance of the girl.

He managed to elude police for three decades despite the evidence. The police suspected the killer was moved to other cities to avoid detection and the information they collected was often not comprehensive.

Earlier this year, Gao’s uncle was arrested and police took a DNA sample from him, and analysis indicated that he was related to the serial killer. This provided the breakthrough in the case the police had been lacking.

Before Gao was arrested, women in Baiyin, an industrial city in Gansu province, lived in fear. After reports that the killer preferred young women with long hair and who wore red clothing and high heels, female residents stopped wearing red and tied up their hair.

Residents also thought the killer was more likely to strike in winter, and believed certain parts of the city should be avoided.

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The fear prompted schools to finish evening classes early and many parents collected their children personally. The shortened school hours are still in place today.

The three-decade-long killing spree also affected the police negatively. Zhang Duan, a police officer who is known for his professional skills, said he was afraid to encounter the families of victims.

He said that police had DNA samples, fingerprints and a portrait of the killer, but failed to solve the murders for decades, which embarrassed him.