Disabled women killed to be 'ghost brides' in rural China
Three men have been charged in China following the murder of two women with mental disabilities whose corpses were to be sold for use in "ghost weddings".
One of the men posed as a matchmaker for the women, but instead he killed them with an injection of drugs before taking them on a journey of hundreds of miles to face a grim burial.
'Ghost weddings' date back almost 3,000 years, and involve elderly bachelors being given 'brides' to be buried with when they die.
There were reports of a village in northern China earlier this year where 15 corpses had been stolen from their burial sites for use in the ancient ritual.
Families in rural China consider it bad luck for a single man to pass into the afterlife without a female companion at his side.
Despite efforts by Beijing to clamp down on superstitions, demand is said to be increasing for female corpses.
The three men, who police said were called Ma, Tang and An, sold one of the women's corpses for 35,000 yuan (€4,600).
The men, who are all from China's northwest Gansu province, were stopped by police in April when they were driving the body of a dead woman to Shaanxi for the ghost wedding.
Ma confessed that he told the woman that they would find her a groom before injecting her with powerful sedatives, which caused her to die.
He killed a woman in similar circumstances in February and sold the body in Shaanxi.
He is now facing murder charges, while his two accomplices are facing charges relating to human trafficking and concealing the murder. The black market in selling human remains is believed to have grown in recent years as China's economic boom has seen the rural wealthy pay large sums to meet the needs of their deceased loved ones.
State media have previously said corpses of younger women can fetch up to €12,000. (© Daily Telegraph, London)