Gao Chengyong was arrested by the police. Photo: Weibo
The capture of Gao Chengyong, who is accused of raping and murdering 11 females including an 8-year-old girl in China's Gansu province and Inner Mongolia in more than a decade, has stunned his acquaintances, who considered him to be "saturnine" and "unsociable".
On August 26, the police captured the alleged serial killer at a grocery store he runs with his wife in Baiyin, a small city in northwestern China's Gansu province where he had killed nine females, putting an end to a 28-year criminal investigation starting in 1988 when the first victim was murdered.
The subsequent killings, the last one in 2002, had some points in common including preference of young women clad in red and living alone, mutilating victims' bodies and cutting their throats. Some victims had their reproductive organs removed.
The 52-year-old killer, a married father of two sons who attended university, is reportedly said to have followed the victims home, usually attacking them in the daytime. Sometimes he raped them before stabbing them to death, and sometimes he did so after they had died, according to media reports.
In 2004, the police offered a reward of 200,000 yuan for clues leading to an arrest, only to find that it did not work, partly because Gao Chengyong was not registered as a resident of Baiyin, but of a village in Gansu province, his hometown.
Gao Chengyong was identified after his uncle was arrested in Baiyin for a minor offense, who gave a DNA sample based on which the police discovered he was a relative of the killer they had been hunting for 28 years.
Gao Chengyong has confessed to the 11 killings in Baiyin and Baotou, a city in the neighboring region of Inner Mongolia.
'I know little about him'
"I have accepted the fact (that my father killed people), but till now I even cannot understand why he did it," Gao Chengyong's elder son, Gao Yuyan (alias), said in an interview with Everyday People.
"I know little about him," said the son, ascribing it to the lack of in-depth communication with Gao Chengyong, who used to be a migrant worker. In the past 10 years, the son only reunited with his father when the family celebrated the Chinese New Year.
Gao Yuyan did not deny the reports that Gao Chengyong enjoyed ballroom dancing with his wife.
According to a Beijing Morning Post report, Lv Dabao (alias), who was a coworker of Gao Chengyong, felt scared about the killings, recalling that Gao Chengyong liked going to an open-air ballroom near their construction site where he always peculiarly stared at women wearing red. "He was indifferent to everything and seldom communicated with people," the report quoted Lv as saying.
Gao Yuyan also revealed that his father had taken a hit in his youth when he failed to be picked as a pilot for "political reasons". "After the war of liberation, my father's family was classified as landlord, which was seen as a factor behind the disapproval," said the son, adding that the bitter suffering might have reshaped his personality.
In an interview with CCTV after the arrest, Gao Chengyong expressed his willingness to donate his organs.
Chen Gang, dean of the Counter-terrorism College of the People's Public Security University, said that it was partly due to Gao Chengyong's old age that made him self-examine the crimes he committed.
"The older he grows, the more ashamed he will feel." said Chen, adding that the other reason behind the organ donation is that he wanted a self-redemption before the execution.
In 2004, the police said that the suspect in the killings of the 11 women and girls has "a sexual perversion and hates women", according to reports at the time.
The atrocities of Gao Chengyong have brought his two sons, who are said to respectively work at a Beijing-based scientific research institute and a state-owned enterprise, under fire on the Internet.
On tianya.cn, a popular online forum in China, Internet users urged Gao Chengyong's children to apologize for their father's crimes, with some even asking for a dismissal citing a so-called policy saying that a person whose immediate family members get death penalty is not qualified to work at state-backed institutions or enterprises.
The online critics also defended their appeals by using latest research findings which showed that some elements of a person's neural activities and personality could be inherited from his or her parents, which would hugely contribute to the development of endogenous psychoses such as schizophrenia and manic-depressive psychosis.