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27 November 2013, 14:16
A jury at Northampton Crown Court has today found Anxiang Du guilty of murder of all four members of the Ding Family who were killed in April 2011.
Anxiang Du repeatedly stabbed his former business partners Jeff and Helen Ding in their kitchen on the day of the Royal Wedding, April 29th 2011.
He then then went upstairs to a bedroom where their daughters Nancy, 18, and Alice, 12, were - also stabbing them to death.
During the trial, the jury heard a recording of the harrowing call to 999 made by the girls asking for help. Some members of the jury of 8 women and 4 men at Northampton crown court cried as the 20 second-long tape was played.
But police officers were sent to the wrong address and the bodies were not discovered until two days later, allowing Du, now 54, to escape.
Having killed the family, Du washed the knife in the kitchen and fled the home at Pioneer Close, Northampton in a silver Corsa the family were hiring while one of their cars was in for repair.
Jeff, a 46 year-old lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, was stabbed 23 times. His 47 year-old wife Helen, who worked as a translator, was stabbed 13 times. Nancy received 11 stab wounds. Alice, who was on the bed, was stabbed 4 times. Both girls were talented violinists.
Prosecutor William Harbage QC said the motive for the killings was revenge. Du had lost a 7 year legal battle with the Dings over their herbal medicine shops. He owed £88,000 legal costs to their friend, businessman Paul Delaney. The night before, Mr Delaney's solicitor had delivered an injunction preventing Du's son selling the family home in Coventry.
Mr Harbage said: "He resorted to violence, to murder in order to avenge himself of the people who had caused him such grief.
He did so not just by killing them - Mr and Mrs Ding - but also by murdering their wholly innocent daughters. Mr Du made a plan and carried it out with ruthless efficiency."
He described Du as a "man on a mission". "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 - 4 times."
After the slaughter of the family, Du drove to Northampton services at junction 15A on the M1, where he bought a banana milkshake and a map of Northamptonshire. Detectives believe he then drove west in an attempt to find Mr Delaney, who lived in the Northants village of Sulgrave. It is not known if he found the address but, fortunately for Mr Delaney, he was out that night. He died in April last year of natural causes.
Du drove on to London, abandoning the Corsa in Venables Street in North London. It was only identified as the getaway car after 9 parking tickets had been placed on it.
He used his own name and passport to buy a coach ticket from Victoria Coach station to France. From there he travelled to Spain and caught a ferry to Tangiers, Morocco. He was detained by the authorities a few days after his arrival, close to the Algerian border, but was freed after giving officials a fake name and saying he came from Taiwan.
After an appeal, he was detained in July 2012 at a building site in Tangier where he was working as a night watchman. He was returned to the UK in February this year.
Du, from Coventry, pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder, claiming he was guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility or loss of control.
At Northampton Crown Court at 1 o'clock today (Wednesday 27th November) Anxiang Du had his head bowed as he sat in the dock as the woman foreman of the jury returned guilty verdicts on the murder charges. The father and brother of Helen Ding, who have been present throughout the trial, nodded as an interpreter told them the verdicts.
Mr Justice Flaux adjourned sentence until 1pm tomorrow (Thurs 28th), when Du's barrister is available. He told him "I have no doubt your counsel has explained to you the only sentence that can be passed is one of life imprisonment."
The judge praised Helen Ding's family for the dignified way they had conducted themselves throughout the trial. He told the jury the case had been distressing for him and for them and excused them from further jury service for ten years.
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 confirms 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 their lives were cut short in this way. Our thoughts and condolences are with their family and friends."
After the verdicts, Helen Ding's father Zuyao Cui described the impact the murders had on their family.
He said "Anxiang Du killed a whole family and it affected the older people especially. They have found it very difficult to accept. The evidence we heard in court was just like a knife to the body.
"When the two families heard about this, it was like the whole sky had fallen down on them. We all cried together."
Asked if he thought Anxiang Du was remorseful, he said "I can't see any regret because through all the evidence presented in the court, you can't see any remorse.
"I would ask Du 'Why did you do what you've done? How can you be so cruel? Whatever happened, you killed two adults as well as two girls'."
Zuyao Cui said that the Ding family had helped Anxiang Du when he came to Britain because he did not have immigration status.
Helen's brother Xin Cui said "We heard the 999 call and the screaming of the two girls, all this evidence has hurt me and I am very angry. Du is very cruel."
Mr Xin Cui said he hated Du for killing four members of his family. Asked what he would say to Du, he said "I would use a Chinese saying. There is a story about a farmer and a snake. The story is about a farmer on a winter's day when it is snowing and he sees a snake almost dying in the cold, so he picked it up and put it to his body to warm it up and then, when the snake recovered, it bit the farmer. Anxiang Du is just like that."
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Video (c) Northants Police
Anxiang Du was always ahead of detectives after officers responding to Nancy Ding's harrowing 999 call were sent to the wrong address.
The screams of Nancy Ding, 18, and her 12 year-old sister Alice were all that was recorded on the 20-second tape as Du repeatedly stabbed them in a bedroom at their home on the afternoon of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Their parents Jeff, 46, and Helen, 47, were already dead in the kitchen of the detached house in Pioneer Close, Wootton Fields, Northampton.
Du, now 54, washed the knife he used to kill the family, before driving away from the scene in a silver Vauxhall Corsa that the Dings had hired while one of their cars, a yellow Fiat 500, was repaired.
An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that insufficient checks were carried out to find the correct address; the call should have been graded as needing an immediate, rather than a priority, response. Also, the force control room supervisor closed the call prematurely, without giving sufficient consideration or effort to establish the welfare of the caller.
As a result, the bodies of Jeff, who lectured at Manchester Met University, Helen, a translator, and their two musically-gifted children, were not discovered for another two days until Sunday May 1 2011.
In a report in February last year, IPCC Commissioner Amerdeep Somal said: "An incorrect location for where the call originated from led to potentially crucial minutes of police time being wasted. And the recording of a specific, wrong address on the incident log misled officers into believing that all was apparently well when the reality was the extreme opposite." She said: "Had the police used more detailed check and a mapping system that was available to them, the need for a subscriber check would have been established, the correct address in Pioneer Close would have been identified and attended by officers within minutes, rather than two days later."
In fact the police had arrived at the house earlier on the Sunday 1 May. The previous day West Midlands Police contacted the Northants force to say Du's wife Can Chen had reported him missing. Another relative had told the police about the legal dispute with the Dings.
At 8am on the Sunday, Northants police officers called at the house to tell the family Du was missing. The house was locked up and the officers left, after putting a card through the door. They did not know the family were dead inside.
It was not until later that day, at around ten to six in the evening, that neighbours raised the alarm. The police broke in and found the bodies.
DCI Tom Davies said that at that stage, with a whole family wiped out, they had no established link to the relatives. Contacts were made through the Chinese and US embassies. Because the house was locked up when the officers broke in, detectives at first believed there had been a murder-suicide.
On Tuesday 3 May 2011 Du, a doctor of herbal medicine and the Dings' former business partner, was identified as a suspect - by then he was 4 days ahead of the police. His toothbrush had been taken for DNA identification when he went missing and was now used to identify him at the murder scene. His fingerprint was found in blood on a banister in the house.
The Corsa car had not shown up on initial Automatic Number Plate checks on the M1 near Northampton. It transpired that after buying a map of Northants and a banana milkshake at the services at M1 junction 15A Du headed west. It is thought that he was trying to find the small village of Sulgrave, where the Dings' business partner Paul Delaney lived. The day before the killings, Mr Delaney's lawyer had served an injunction on Du in an attempt to obtain the £88,000 he owed him from the legal battle. It is not known if Du got to Mr Delaney's home, but fortunately he was not in that night. Mr Delaney himself died in April 2012, aged 65.
Later the police established that Du travelled to London down the M40 through Oxfordshire and Bucks. The Corsa was seen at the services at junction 8A near Oxford at twenty to one on the morning of April 30. Nearly two hours later, at 02.29, CCTV picked him up walking on Venables Street off Edgware Road in north London at 02.29.
It was not until Monday 9 May that the Corsa was found abandoned in Venables Street. By that time it had amassed 9 parking tickets. Until that stage no PNC check had been carried out by the firm issuing the tickets. More vital time was wasted.
Du fled the country by coach using his own name and passport. He paid £61 cash, at 7.07 in the morning of 30 April, for a one-way coach ticket on Eurolines from Victoria Coach station to Paris. No passport checks were carried out in France and from Paris he travelled to Southern Spain. From there he took a ferry from Algerciras to Tangiers in Morocco on 3 May 2011.
If Du had travelled by plane he would have been traced easily, but as he went by coach his movements were not picked up.
Du had used cash all the way so there was no financial trail. On his way to the Dings' house he had left his home in Coventry and gone to his shop Natural Care in Birmingham. It was closed for the Bank Holiday and it may have been that he was getting out cash.
On May 7 2011 Du was picked up at Oujda near the Algerian border by the Moroccan authorities. He told officials he was from Taiwan, was called Li Ming and was released. He could have been making his way across North Africa.
Du's family were questioned about possible involvement in his escape. A file was sent to the CPSA who decided not to bring charges.
In March 2012 Northants police went to China to make an appeal. They spoke to Du's father-in-law who said he did not know where he was. As a British citizen Du would have needed a visa to enter China.
In July 2012 a further appeal was made on Spanish TV, which is watched in North Africa. He was identified by a local after his photo appeared in the local media. Du was living on a building site in Tangiers where he was acting as a night watchman, living in a make shift home of bricks and planks on the site. The manager was giving him food and clothing.
Du, who had been top of Crimestoppers' most wanted list, was returned to the UK on 20 February this year. He has never been interviewed by the police and did not give evidence in the court case.
DCI Davies said: "He was always ahead of us. The satisfaction of finding him will always be tinged with the knowledge that the abandoned 999 call and the 9 parking tickets did not do us any favours."
243 police officers were involved in the case, along with 52 support staff. 2,196 members of the public were spoken to. There were 2,501 exhibits and 900 statements and almost 4,500 other documents. There were 3,400 "actions" and 446 potential sightings of Du in the UK. An initial reward for information was increased from £10,000 to £25,000 in April last year.