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End to grisly three-decade mystery? Chinese police arrest suspected serial killer accused of murder and rape of 11 women and girls

An alleged serial killer accused of raping and murdering nearly a dozen women and girls – one as young as eight, has been arrested in China’s northwest Gansu province, solving a terrifying mystery that has gripped the city of Baiyin for 28 years, according to police.

In a statement on the weekend, the Ministry of Public Security said Gao Chengyong, 52, a married father of two, was detained after a tip-off at a grocery store at the Baiyin Industrial School on Friday morning and admitted killing a total of 11 people in Baiyin and Baotou, in neighbouring Inner Mongolia, between 1988 and 2002.

The Beijing News said some key information related to Gao emerged earlier this year. Without elaborating, the report said officers examined Gao’s DNA and fingerprints and found they were identical to the killer’s.

Using hammer, shovel or axe, serial killer of 65 struck victims as they slept

The first victim, a 23-year-old woman, was killed in her home in Baiyin on May 26, 1988, and was found with 26 wounds to her body.

The subsequent murders followed a similar pattern – the killer targeted young women who lived alone, pursuing them to their homes before raping and killing them, according to earlier media reports.

The killer’s victims were usually dressed in red and he tended to operate during the day. In some cases he would sever parts of the victims’ bodies, according to reports.

The killer remained at large for nearly three decades despite extensive investigations by police in Baiyin.

The ministry started supervising the investigation in August, 2001, and officers gathered various evidence, including a footprint, fingerprint, semen sample and DNA sample left by the killer.

Officers tested each permanent male resident in Baiyin but they were not able to identify a suspect until they received information about Gao earlier this year and his fingerprint and DNA proved a match.

According to the police, Gao has spent most of the past 28 years in Baiyin but his household is registered in a village outside Lanzhou, about 120km from Baiyin.

Serial killers thrive where the law fails

Residents of the remote village did not have to give their fingerprints when they registered so Gao slipped through the police net and continued living in Baiyin over the years, according to The Beijing News.

The report said Gao travelled between his hometown and Baiyin between 1988 and 2002, but stayed mostly in the city after he allegedly stopped killing.

He had since avoided giving his fingerprints for fear of being caught, the report said, citing police sources.

The brother of one victim, who was killed aged 16 in 1998, said the shadow of the tragedy continued to hang over the family.

The girl’s body had been mutilated and their father died three years later “in despair”.