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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: July 11, 2001 / January 11, 2002
Date of arrest: January 23, 2002
Date of birth: 1980
Victims profile: Cai Yafei (female) / Meng Weiping (female, 22)
Method of murder: Beating with a hammer
Location: Shanghai, China
Status: Sentenced to death on May 21, 2002. Executed

Serial killer

By Yao Lan - Shanghai Star

May 23, 2002

Two women have died and five have been injured by this cruel robber's hammers. He was sentenced to death on Wednesday

WHEN Wu Chaofu walked into the courtroom to provide his testimony, the 47-year-old man refused to take his eyes off the man who has been accused of beating his wife to death with a hammer.

"I last saw my wife around 10:00am before she left our home on July 11 last year," Wu said.

Cai Yafei's body was discovered near her home early the next day; her money, mobile phone, and jewellery, worth a total of 7,400 yuan ($895), were missing.

The defendant, a 22-year-old man named Chen Zhaofeng, was charged with attacking seven women including Cai between June 2001 and January 2002, in Putuo, Jing'an and Xuhui districts. The serial attacks resulted in two deaths and five cases of brain damage.

"I had long been unemployed and the pressure pushed me into a corner," Chen said on the first hearing at Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court on May 16.

Miserably poor

Chen was born in Mudanjiang, a city in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. His father, a Shanghai native, had gone to the northern province as an educated youth during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). There, the man married a local woman who gave birth to Chen, the only child of the family.

The family returned to the city in 1995 when the boy was 15 years old. Yet, due to the great economic disparity between Mudanjiang and Shanghai, the family led a miserably poor life.

"The family's monthly income totalled around 300 yuan ($36.3) at that time, and the mother had long been suffering a poor health condition," said Wang Qian'en, a lawyer for Chen. "Still a child, Chen dropped out of school in 1995, and did not finish junior middle school."

To support the family, Chen did odd jobs. One of his occupations was to steal cats at night, then sell them to cat dealers for profit.

In 1999, the young man was taken into custody for 10 days by police for stealing.

"Of course, I wanted to find a stable job, but it was hopeless because of my poor education," Chen said.

The depressed and destitute young man resorted to drinking as an outlet, and on the night of June 2, 2001, for the first time, attacked a 32-year-old woman in Putuo District with an empty beer bottle. After the victim collapsed, Chen grabbed her mobile phone and ring, which totalled 700 yuan ($84.6).

"Later, I found that bottles easily broke, and did not always render the victim unconscious," he said. "I began to use hammers and had bought three in all."

Gold necklace

Cai was Chen's second victim, but first death. Chen admitted that he hit the woman three times with his hammer in a neighbourhood in Jing'an District. About two weeks later, Chen attacked the third woman with a hammer in Xuhui District and stole her gold necklace.

He did not follow or attack any women until the following November, when he committed the next four assaults in Putuo District.

On the night of January 11, Chen assaulted 22-year-old Meng Weiping, delivering three blows to her head. She was found dead in a flower terrace on the morning of January 12.

However, Chen only found 150 yuan ($18.1), some books, a bag and some clothes in the victim's possession. So an hour later, he seriously injured another woman and stole her belongings valued at 4,100 yuan ($496).

Chen's crime spree ended that night. He was questioned by police 10 days later, and was taken into detention on January 23.

In total from the seven attacks, Chen netted items valued at 13,000 yuan ($1,572).

"I either sold my loot or gave it to my friends," he said.

Threat to society

In court, procurators insisted on giving Chen the death penalty because of his violent cruelty.

Yet, Chen applied to judges for a lighter punishment, demonstrating his remorse.

"I know what I did was disgusting, and brought irretrievable damage to the victims and their families," Chen said. "I dare not to hope for forgiveness from them, but I sincerely apologize to them."

Wang, his lawyer, also said that Chen's behaviour was mainly attributed to his poverty.

"He could have finished his schooling and had a relatively good future if not for his poor family," Wang said. "This makes him different from other criminals."

Wang called for more help to assist these families in educating their children.

"Many of these people who have returned to the city are poor, society should help them care for their children," he added.

However, procurators asked the court to impose the strongest penalty on Chen.

"Chen's behaviour has become a threat to the society and brought panic to ordinary people," said Zeng Mian, a prosecutor. "His cruelty showed no sympathy, which makes him no different from other gangsters."

Zeng said robbery is the most serious offence to others' property, and authorities have long insisted on severely cracking down on such crimes.

On Wednesday, May 22, Chen was sentenced to death by the Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People's Court, after 16 working days.


The defendant Chen Zhaofeng, accused of serial murder and robbery,
is escorted to court on May 16, 2002.



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