Police in the Chinese province of Gansu say they’ve arrested the man that the media has dubbed “China’s Jack the Ripper.” Gao Chengyong is suspected of raping and murdering 11 women and girls between 1988 and 2002. Police say Chengyong has confessed to the crimes, which sometimes included the removal of the victims’ reproductive organs. The youngest victim was eight years old.
The New York Times reports that Gao, 52, led an apparently peaceful life: He once worked as a migrant laborer before opening a grocery store. He had two sons with his wife, with whom he apparently liked to take ballroom dancing. He was arrested Friday after police matched his DNA and fingerprints to those found at the scenes of all 11 killings, nine in the city of Baiyin, and two in Baotou, a nearby city in Inner Mongolia.
Police believe Gao often stalked women wearing red before raping and killing them in their homes, usually in the middle of the day. In several cases, the killer removed body parts, including reproductive organs, the Guardian reports, citing the Bejing Youth Daily:
Some victims also had their reproductive organs removed, the Beijing Youth Daily added.
“The suspect has a sexual perversion and hates women,” police said in 2004, when they linked the crimes for the first time and offered a reward of 200,000 yuan ($30,000) for information leading to an arrest.
“He’s reclusive and unsociable, but patient,” they said at the time.
The police say Gao confessed to the killings, which began in August of 1988, the same year his oldest son was born. The victim, a 23-year-old woman, was found dead at home with 26 stab wounds.
The Chinese news media reports that Gao eluded police for years because he’d managed to avoid having his fingerprints taken, usually a requirement for every citizen applying for a national ID card. He was also believed to be living in his hometown, about 75 miles away from where he actually lived and where the bulk of the killings took place. His uncle was arrested earlier this year and had a DNA sample taken; police determined he was closely related to the serial killer.
The South China Morning Post reports that a tip ultimately led police to Gao. It quotes his eldest son, who says he “didn’t quite understand” his father, whom he usually saw only once a year. Gao is described as “emotionally detached” from his family; his youngest son said he underwent “bitter suffering” as a younger man, when he failed to become a pilot for “political reasons.”
According to the Morning Post, the murders created years of fear and dread among the women in Baiyin, many of whom refused to walk the streets alone. The brother of one of the victims, Cui Jinping, who died in 1998, told China Daily that he’d begun to believe the murder would never be solved—parts of her body were never recovered. Her brother said the family wept upon hearing that Gao had been arrested.