The alleged serial killer accused of raping and murdering nearly a dozen women and girls over more than a decade in northern China has been described by acquaintances as a quiet man, emotionally detached from his family, but known for his “filial piety” when young.
Gao Chengyong is accused of killing 11 people in Baiyin in Gansu province and Baotou in neighbouring Inner Mongolia between 1988 and 2002. The youngest victim was eight years old.
He was detained after a tip-off at a grocery store in Baiyin on Friday morning, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. He has admitted the killings, according to the release.
His arrest and questions about how he carried out the crimes for so many years have gripped China.
Gao’s acquaintances near where he last worked at a vocational school in Baiyin said he seldom talked about his past, the news website Thepaper.cn reported.
People living in Gao’s hometown, Qingcheng near Lanzhou, were shocked to learn that he had been arrested for the serial killings. They told the news website that they knew little about Gao’s life as he seldom returned and had little contact with them.
Gao, 52, is a married father of two. One of his cousins said he took good care of his father during his final years suffering from paralysis back in the 1980s.
Gao’s elder son was quoted by the social media account Meirirenwu as saying he “didn’t quite understand” his father who he met only once a year during the Lunar New Year festival.
It had taken him some time to accept that his father had been arrested as the suspect killer.
“I’ve accepted this fact, but I cannot understand why he did it,” he said.
The younger son was also quoted as saying that his father had experienced bitter suffering in his youth, failing to become a pilot for “political reasons”.
Gao’s first alleged killing was in May 1988, the same year his first son was born.
The first victim, a 23-year-old woman, was killed in her home in Baiyin 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 previous media reports.
The attacks created panic and many women in Baiyin would not walk alone in the streets without being accompanied by male friends or relatives, state media said.
Police investigating the murders had fingerprints, semen and DNA samples, but their efforts to catch the killer were thwarted because Gao was not on record as living in Baiyin, but in his hometown 120 km away.