Shopkeeper’s double life as serial killer who butchered 11 women for wearing red
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To his customers, Gao Chengyong was merely their quiet, unassuming shopkeeper.
They had absolutely no idea that he led a chilling double life as a serial killer who stalked, raped, murdered and dismembered 11 women during a 14-year murderous spree – and neither did his wife.
Gao was dubbed ‘China's Jack the Ripper’ due to his brutal killing methods and grisly calling card, often carving off his victims’ breasts, hands, ears, and violently mutilating their reproductive organs.
Like many serial killers’ wives, Zhang Qingfeng said she had no idea she was sharing a bed with a man who police claimed “harboured a deep resentment of women”.
And, had it not been for a chance arrest elsewhere, she might never have found out what her husband was really up to when he went missing for days at a time.
Gao only came on cops' radar when his uncle was arrested in a nearby town for an unconnected offence.
The uncle's DNA was a partial match for the at-large serial killer, eventually leading detectives to his nephew.
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Gao was arrested in 2016 at the grocery store he owned in Baiyin, a city in the northern region of Gansu, near the Mongolian border.
Incredibly, 14 years had passed since his last kill.
It is not known why he suddenly stopped killing women, but detectives knew of one key event that occurred in the year of his first kill in 1988 – his eldest son was born just days prior.
Gao’s first victim was a 23-year-old woman who was stabbed 26 times.
He was thought to have stalked her, following to her home where he attacked, raped, and murdered her.
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This would become his modus operandi, with the next 10 killings – including that of a helpless eight-year-old girl – following a similar pattern.
Another similarity was that almost all of his victims were wearing red when they were killed, and he would butcher the bodies and mutilate their sexual organs before leaving the scene of the crime.
Women in Baiyin were terrified, and refused to walk the streets without a male chaperone. They even stopped wearing red clothes.
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Police warned that the monster behind the killings had a “hatred and sexual fascination for women wearing red.”
It was also not uncommon for Gao to rob his victims, with Zhang admitting that it wasn’t uncommon for her husband to return after being AWOL for a few days with a wad of cash – including after the birth of their eldest child.
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She naively assumed that he had picked up some casual work and was off working for the benefit of her and their two sons.
But his “usually calm” behaviour changed in 2016 after police came to ask him for a blood sample, she said.
She told the South China Morning Post: “After drawing blood that day, his mind seemed to have become preoccupied and his hands would shake during dinner.”
In a neighbouring province, his uncle had been arrested on a minor charge and his DNA partially matched bodily fluids found on the eleven victims’ bodies – police suddenly had a lead.
All of his relatives were tested, leading them straight to Gao.
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Incredibly it was only in 2004 – two years after his final kill – that police linked all of Gao’s murders as being the work of one man and offered a 200,000 yuan (£22,300) reward for any information that could catch him.
They warned the perpetrator had “a sexual perversion and hates women,” adding he was “reclusive and unsociable, but patient.”
After his arrest in August 2016 he coughed to the 11 murders.
In March 2018 he was stripped of all his assets and sentenced to death, and executed less than a year later on January 3, 2019.
It was never revealed if he died by firing squad or lethal injection.
- Serial Killers
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