Businessman denies revenge killing of family of four
A Chinese businessman murdered a family of four with "ruthless efficiency" in order to "avenge himself" after a business relationship turned sour, a court has heard.
Anxiang Du, 55, is accused of killing Manchester Metropolitan University lecturer Jifeng "Jeff'" Ding, his wife, Ge "Helen" Chui, and their two daughters, Xing "Nancy" 18, and Alice, 12.
Opening the case for the prosecution at Northampton Crown Court, William Harbage QC told the jury of eight women and four men that Du armed himself with a kitchen knife and stabbed the family to death in their own home on April 29 2011, the day of the royal wedding.
Mr Harbage said: "The prosecution case is that this defendant, Anxiang Du, on the day of the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, on April 29th 2011, travelled to Northampton from his home in Coventry, via Birmingham, armed with a kitchen knife, and savagely stabbed to death firstly the two people, Mr and Mrs Ding, with whom he had been having a long-running legal dispute.
"Not content with killing them, the mother and father, in the kitchen of their own home, he then went upstairs to find their two daughters, Nancy aged 18 and Alice aged 12, cowering in a bedroom.
"He cold-bloodedly stabbed them to death as well."
Mr Harbage told the court, which contained members of Mrs Ding's family who had travelled from China to be present for the trial, that each member of the family had sustained many wounds, some of which had penetrated the chest cavity causing fatal damage to the heart and lungs.
Du denies four counts of murder.
Mr Harbage said Du had carried out the killings in order to get revenge after a decade-long legal dispute with the Dings that left him with a large sum to pay in court costs.
"Why did he do it?" Mr Harbage asked jurors.
"The answer is quite simply revenge.
"The defendant Du and his wife and Mr and Mrs Ding used to be in business together.
"The business relationship turned sour.
"There followed a long running dispute lasting for 10 years involving protracted and acrimonious litigation in the civil courts for seven of those 10 years.
"Although Du won the first battle he lost the last and was left with a large sum of money to pay in costs, some £88,000.
"On the 28th of April 2011, the day before the killings, he was served with an injunction to prevent him from dissipating his assets.
"It was obvious to him that he had lost, he faced ruin, there was no other legitimate course of action for him to take to fight his case.
"And so he resorted to violence, to murder, in order to avenge himself of the people who had caused him such grief.
"He did so not just by killing them, Mr and Mrs Ding, but also by murdering their wholly innocent daughters with whom he had no grievance whatsoever.
"Du made a plan and carried it out with ruthless efficiency."
Mr Harbage told the court that Du, "having massacred the Ding family", stole their car and went in search of another man, Paul Delaney, who had become involved in the civil litigation and lived elsewhere in Northamptonshire.
"Fortunately for Mr Delaney, Du did not find him," Mr Harbage told the court.
Du then fled; he drove to London where he took a coach to Paris, then travelled down through France and Spain to Algeciras on the Mediterranean coast where he took a boat to Morocco.
It was from there that he was brought back to the UK earlier this year, the court heard.
Mr Harbage told jurors there was no argument that Du was responsible for the killings but he would claim he had not intended them to happen.
"There is no dispute in this case that Du is the man responsible for these four tragic deaths," Mr Harbage said.
"There is no dispute that he unlawfully killed all four members of the Ding family.
"Indeed, it was obvious from an early stage in the investigation that it was Du who did it, obvious from CCTV evidence of his movements and from forensic evidence, including his fingerprints found in blood at the scene.
"That much is admitted.
"However, it is anticipated that Du may now claim that he should not be convicted of murder but should only be convicted of manslaughter on the basis of either diminished responsibility or loss of control.
"These are two separate partial defences which, if they apply, reduce what would otherwise be murder to manslaughter.
"They are quite technical and will be explained to you fully by the judge should they arise.
"Suffice to say, the prosecution does not accept that this is anything other than the clearest case of murder, with the obvious motive of revenge, and any claim otherwise by Du is simply a blatant and transparent attempt to avoid his full responsibility for these grotesque killings."
Mr Harbage told the court that the Dings, who lived in Pioneer Close in Wootton, were "hard-working, decent people of Chinese origin".
The jury heard that Mr Ding was a lecturer in polymer science at Manchester Metropolitan University while his wife was a businesswoman and translator.
Mr Harbage told the jury that the couple moved to the UK about 20 years ago and their two daughters were born here.
The court also heard a little about Du's background.
Mr Harbage told the jury that Du, who speaks litle English, was born in China and came to the UK in 1998 shortly after his wife, Can Chen.
The couple, who have a son called Boquian, are both doctors of traditional Chinese medicine.
The court heard that Mrs Ding met Du's wife and the two couples became friends and decided to go into business together in 1999.
Mr Harbage told the jury that the business was successful and shops were opened in Gloucester and Cheltenham.
But in 2001, he said, there was an "incident" involving Du, Mrs Ding and a friend of hers, Mr Delaney.
Police were called and Du was arrested but no charges were brought.
In April of that year, Du and his wife were dismissed from the business, the court heard.
In 2004, Du started legal proceedings against the Dings over the joint ownership of the business and so began a long-running dispute.
The court heard that Du won the first legal battle but lost the last and was left with a large costs bill of £88,000.
On the evening of April 28, Du was served at his home address with an injunction preventing him from disposing of his assets.
Mr Harbage said the injunction was "the final straw" for Du, who also found that he had no further avenues of appeal in the civil litigation, had had all his assets frozen, and faced financial ruin.
He said the injunction was "the catalyst" for the horrific events which were to unfold the following day.