Wednesday 21 February 2018

Man guilty of stabbing family of four to death

Jury weeps as they hear recording of 999 call 12-year-old daughter made before she died

Undated handout photo issued by Northamptonshire Police of Jifeng Ding with his wife Helen and daughters Xing and Alice. Anxiang Du, a Chinese businessman, has been found guilty at Northampton Crown Court of stabbing all four members of the family dead at their home in Wootton, Northamptonshire, in April 2011. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Undated handout photo issued by Northamptonshire Police of Jifeng Ding with his wife Helen and daughters Xing and Alice. Anxiang Du, a Chinese businessman, has been found guilty at Northampton Crown Court of stabbing all four members of the family dead at their home in Wootton, Northamptonshire, in April 2011. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Undated handout photo issued by Northamptonshire Police of Helen Ding's father Zuyao Cui and her brother Xin Cui (right) as Anxiang Du has been found guilty at Northampton Crown Court of the murders of four members of the Ding family, including Helen, at their home in Wootton, Northamptonshire, in April 2011. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Handout photo issued by Northamptonshire Police dated 29/05/11 and taken from CCTV footage of Anxiang Du travelling on a bus on the day of the killings as he has been found guilty at Northampton Crown Court of the murders of four members of the Ding family at their home in Wootton, Northamptonshire, in April 2011. PRESS ASSOCIATION
Undated handout photo issued by Northamptonshire Police of the knife used by Anxiang Du to kill the Ding family as he has been found guilty at Northampton Crown Court of the murders of four members of the Ding family at their home in Wootton, Northamptonshire, in April 2011. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Undated handout file photo issued by Northamptonshire Police of Anxiang Du, who has been found guilty at Northampton Crown Court of the murders of four members of the Ding family at their home in Wootton, Northamptonshire, in April 2011. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

A businessman who stabbed a family of four to death has been found guilty of their murders.

Anxiang Du, 54, was convicted by a jury at Northampton Crown Court of murdering Manchester Metropolitan University lecturer Jifeng "Jeff'" Ding, his wife, Ge "Helen" Chui, and their two daughters, Xing "Nancy" 18, and Alice, 12, on April 29, 2011.

Jurors rejected the claim that Du, from Coventry, should be convicted of manslaughter on the basis of either diminished responsibility or loss of control.

He will be sentenced tomorrow.

The jury of eight women and four men took just over three hours to deliver a unanimous verdict.

Du looked down in the dock as the verdicts were read out.

Judge Mr Justice Flaux adjourned sentence until tomorrow.

He said: "Anxiang Du, you have been found guilty of four counts of murder.

"No doubt your counsel will have explained that there is only one sentence I can pass for this and I will sentence you tomorrow."

The judge, addressing members of the Ding family, said: "I have observed the dignified way in which you have conducted yourselves throughout a trial which must have truly horrendous for you.

"I know nothing I can say can assuage the pain of the deaths of your sister and daughter but I just hope at least the fact that the man responsible for the deaths has been brought to justice will provide you with some comfort."

He also thanked the jury for their work.

Relatives of the Ding family have been in court for the two-week trial along with Du's son Boquian.

During the trial, the jury heard how Du "massacred" his former business partners Mr and Mrs Ding in revenge after he lost a 10-year legal battle over a Chinese herbal medicine business.

Du and his wife Can Chen had set up the business with their friends the Dings but civil proceedings commenced after that relationship "turned sour".

Losing the case left Du "angry, humiliated and facing financial ruin" as he owed some £88,000 in court costs, jurors were told.

An injunction delivered to his home in Coventry on the evening of April 28, 2011, preventing him from dissipating his assets, was to be the "catalyst" for the events which would unfold the next day, prosecutors told the court.

Du made a plan and "carried it out with ruthless efficiency", the court heard.

On April 29, Du left his home and went to his shop in Birmingham where he picked up a knife and wrote a farewell note to his wife in Mandarin.

The note read "Best wishes/Eternal Blessing. Qian Qian (pet name for their son) will care about Mum forever! Everyone has to say farewell one day!".

Armed with the knife, a quantity of cash and his passport, he travelled to the home of the Dings in Wootton, Northamptonshire, "like a man on a mission", to exact revenge.

The jury heard he took a train from Birmingham New Street station to Northampton where he boarded a bus to where the Ding family lived in Pioneer Close.

He knived Mr and Mrs Ding multiple times, leaving them for dead in the kitchen, then, with their blood on his hands, he went upstairs and slaughtered their two daughters Alice, 12, and Nancy, 18, who he found cowering in a bedroom.

Post mortem tests showed that Mr Ding had been stabbed 23 times, Mrs Ding 13 times, Nancy had 11 stab wounds, and Alice had four.

The killings took place just hours after the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Du then made his getaway in the Dings' silver Corsa - driving through the night to London.

The next day he boarded a coach from London Victoria Coach Station to Paris Gallieni. He travelled on through Spain before boarding a ferry from Algeciras to Tangier in Morocco.

He evaded capture for more than a year until his arrest in the city last July.

Moroccan authorities arrested Du on July 7 and negotiations began with the UK to extradite him back.

He was flown back to London in February this year.

Opening his case, prosecutor William Harbage QC told jurors: "This was a considered act of revenge executed in an unbelievably calm and cold-blooded manner.

"He planned to kill, he intended to kill; he did kill - four times. This is murder nothing less."

Du elected not to give evidence during the trial but his barrister claimed he should only be convicted of manslaughter on the basis of either diminished responsibility or loss of control.

It was claimed that Du had been suffering a severe depressive illness at the time of the killings.

Mr Harbage dismissed the claims and told jurors the killings had been a "premeditated plan" formed overnight after the service of the injunction.

The court heard the bodies were not discovered until May 1, two days after the killings.

During the trial, jurors wiped tears from their eyes as a recording of a frantic 999 call made from Alice Ding's mobile phone on the day of the killings, was played in court.

The screams of both girls could be heard on the call, made at 3.32pm, before the line went dead.

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found Northamptonshire Police had mishandled the 999 call, resulting in officers being sent to the wrong address and the call being closed prematurely.

Speaking at a media briefing at Northamptonshire Police headquarters, Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Tom Davies, from Northamptonshire Police, admitted they will "never know" what may have happened had the call been handled correctly.

The detective also revealed that officers from Northamptonshire Police were sent to the Dings' address on the morning of May 1.

West Midlands Police asked the force to visit the Dings after Mr Du's wife reported her husband as missing on April 30 and mentioned a dispute between the two families.

The officers visited the Dings' house at 8.10am on May 1 but when there was no reply, they simply posted a card through the door and left, unaware of the four bodies that lay inside, Mr Davies said.

The bodies were only discovered after a concerned neighbour contacted police later that same day to say he had seen a body laid on the floor through a back window.

A psychiatrist who visited Du in prison earlier this year told the court the businessman had given him a version of events that took place on the day of the killings.

Professor Nigel Eastman, a forensic psychiatrist, told jurors Du had told him he had gone to the Dings to get money back from them.

He admitted to the psychiatrist that he had thought about harming the Dings and told Mr Eastman: "If the Dings had apologised to me I probably would not have done that (harmed them). Throughout they never apologised."

He told Mr Eastman he stabbed Mr and Mrs Ding before going upstairs and killing their two children.

"I also killed them (the children), I don't know why," Du told him.

Mr Eastman asked him whether he had any hatred for the two children. Du replied: "I did not hate them at all. I don't know why. I am so sorry."

He said Du then told him he "lay down and slept" before waking up and stealing the Dings' car.

Another witness, Leighton Williams, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Morocco, told jurors an emotional Du had told him he had lived in China before moving to the UK about 10 years previously.

He had had a good life in China, he said, and regretted moving to Britain.

Mr Williams, who provided consular assistance to Du, told jurors: "He said that he had gone round on that day just to try and sort the problems out.

"He said he was trying to resolve the problems.

"For him, he said that he had lost everything, he had been left with nothing, and this was a last-ditch attempt, if you like, to try and solve the problems."

Mr Williams went on: "All he told me was that his friend had just laughed in his face.

"He just said 'I just went crazy' and at that time he became very emotional and broke down again.

"At this time he made some gestures with his right hand clenched."

Rebecca Trowler QC, defending Du, asked if Mr Williams understood what the movement meant and he replied: "At the time all I can tell you is what I saw and I saw his right hand clenched and his right hand was moving up and down, as if he was stabbing something."

Towards the end of their visit, Mr Williams said of Du: "He just turned and looked at me and said 'God help me'."

Following the verdict, Steve Chappell, chief crown prosecutor, CPS East Midlands, said: "This was a brutal, shocking crime. Anxiang Du travelled to the Dings' home armed with a knife and killed the whole family in their own home.

"The evidence was clear that this was an act of pre-meditated revenge and Du knew what he was doing.

"The jury had the option to consider a verdict of manslaughter, but has delivered a verdict that he was fully responsible for his actions and is guilty of murder.

"The Crown Prosecution Service has been working with the police since the very outset, providing advice to the investigation and taking all the required legal steps to ensure that Du could be brought back to the UK to face trial.

"The Ding family were honest, hard-working and well-liked people. It is a tragedy that their lives were cut short in this way. Our thoughts and condolences are with their family and friends."

Speaking outside court today, senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Tom Davies said: "Today we've seen justice done.

"This was a heinous crime committed by a man who knew what he was doing and went with a plan to kill an entire family in cold blood.

"The outcome today is a welcome relief for the family and friends of the Dings who can now rest in the knowledge that the man responsible for the murders of the family will likely face the rest of his life in prison.

"Whilst the result today has been successful, we remain sorrowful and cannot lose sight of the fact that a family, including two very talented young girls, had their lives tragically taken away from them.

"I would like to praise and thank Jeff and Helen's families in China and the US, and the friends of the family in England, for their faith and support throughout the inquiry.

"I would also like to thank the media for their support in reporting this case and keeping the public informed throughout the investigation and trial.

"I would also like to praise the investigation team for their hard work, dedication and commitment to ensure Anxiang Du would face justice for the murders of Jeff, Helen, Nancy and Alice."

Speaking after the verdicts, Helen Ding's father, Zuyao Cui, said on behalf of the family: "Anxiang Du cold-bloodedly killed the whole of the Ding family and took away four lives. During the whole trial we listened with deep sorrow and pain.

"Finally today the verdict is murder. Anxiang Du deserves what he receives, justice has been served.

"We, as the victims' family, would like very much to praise DCI Tom Davies from Northamptonshire Police and his team's hard work.

"They have overcome many obstacles and challenges, including dealing with Anxiang Du's cunning moves. They faced pressure regarding the mishandling of the 999 call and international law restraints.

"They have succeeded in capturing Anxiang Du and have achieved the correct verdict. We respectfully thank the judge and the prosecutor, Mr Harbage, and the Crown Prosecution Service who have used the evidence to convict Anxiang Du.

"We would like to thank the Ding family's neighbours, friends, media, Victim Support, schools, the Chinese Embassy and the Chinese Association, who have all provided support and care for us.

"The investigation team were our family working on our behalf and we recognise and appreciate that."

 

Press Association

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