Family stabbings suspect 'seen'
8 May 2011, 09:17 | Updated: 8 May 2011, 09:38
Police say a number of witnesses have come forward with possible sightings of a man who's wanted after a family of four were found stabbed to death at their home.
It's after officers retraced the steps of their main suspect - 52 year old businessman Anxiang Du - in Northampton on Friday 06 May 2011.
Helen Chui, her husband Jifeng Ding (known as Jeff) and their two daughters, 18-year-old Xing (who was known as Nancy) and 12-year-old Alice were found stabbed to death at their detached house in Pioneer Close in Wootton, Northampton on the evening of Sunday 1 May
It's believed they were still alive on Friday 29 April because Alice appeared to be posting messages on Facebook about that day's Royal Wedding.
After retracing the journey Anxiang Du is believed to have taken, detectives say a number of potential witnesses have come forward, with possible reported sightings of Mr Du on Friday 29 April - the day he disappeared, and also the day of the royal wedding.
Detective Superintendent Glyn Timmins said: "On Friday we conducted live enquiries following the exact route we believe Mr Du took on the Friday, after he left his place and arrived in Northampton.
"We spoke to a number of people, including putting up posters in key locations.
"Following this activity we obtained a number of statements indicating sightings of Mr Du on the route we believe he took on the Friday.
"It is apparent from these reports that a number of these witnesses have seen the extensive media coverage of this case, but for whatever reason have not come forward to report the information to the police earlier.''
He said there was a strong possibility other witnesses with information may not have come forward yet, and added: "I want to appeal again to members of the public and stress that any information we receive will be dealt with sensitively or confidentially through Crimestoppers.
"So far we have received over 200 reports relating to Mr Du and we will be following every one of these leads.''
He said so far there have been no confirmed reports of a silver five door Vauxhall Corsa registration BG60 PMO, missing from the family's home.
CCTV images released show him arriving from Birmingham New Street at platform four of Northampton railway station.
Officers then travelled to Greyfriars bus station where Du is believed to have waited in bay 19, eventually getting on the number 15 bus.
The reconstruction on Friday 6 May, a week after the family's murder, ended when officers travelled into Wootton Village, to the bus stop where Du is believed to have got off.
Mr Timmins has previously said Du is known to have been in possession of a significant amount of cash at the time of the murders.
Du, who lived in Coventry and worked at a herbal medicine shop in Birmingham, is known to have travelled to Northampton by train just a day after losing a bitter court battle over his shared business interests with the Ding family.
He was reported missing by his family on Friday after they discovered a note ``saying goodbye'' at the shop where he worked.
Chinese-born Du is described as being of slim build and routinely wears a baseball cap.
Members of the public are being advised not to approach him and anyone who spots him or the Corsa is urged to call 999.
Detective Superintendent Glyn Timmins says Du could have been easy to spot after the attacks took place:
"We think from a forensic examination of the scene that it's likely his clothing would have been blood stained - or heavily blood stained. Therefore he would have needed to have changed those clothes. Now, potentially he could have taken other clothes with him in this rucksack he's carrying. Equally he may have gone to a shop to buy new clothing. And again we're asking people, are you a shop keeper who sold someone of Mr Du's description a new shirt, new trousers, new shoes. Have you sold him a new mobile phone? Has he stayed with you?"
Police say Mr Du had a substantial amount of money on him which would have been enough for him to survive for several days.
Northamptonshire Police say on Thursday 28th April, court proceedings involving Du and the Ding family had come to a conclusion, with the ruling going in favour of the Dings and potentially costing Du tens of thousands of pounds. The parties had been involved with each other through business interests to do with Chinese Herbal Remedy shops - including one in Northampton.
Northamptonshire Police say Du left his house in Coventry for work on the morning of Friday 29 April and left a "goodbye" note for his family at his herbal remedy shop in Birmingham. Detective Superintendent Glyn Timmins told Heart:
"It was written in his own first language, which I believe is Mandarin Chinese. A rough translation of that indicates that there were sentiments expressed towards his own family, and it appears to be a goodbye or farewell note of some description."
Earlier this week police released CCTV footage showing Du at at Birmingham New Street train station at 11.22am on Friday 29th April. The next sighting of the business man is at Northampton Train station at 12.35pm on the same day.
Du was last seen wearing a white baseball cap, a brown waist length coat, grey trousers, a blue woollen top and black leather shoes.
He's described as being of slim build and may have a rucksack with him. He has a bald patch at the back of his head so wears a baseball cap to cover it up.
Members of the public are being warned not to approach Du if they see him. DSI Timmins said:
"We are not clear as to Mr Du's state of mind, in particularly as he is believed to have left a suicide note at the store shortly before his disappearance.
"We believe this attack was targeted to this specific family and not a random attack, however we would urge the public not to approach him and to contact us on 999 or 0800 096 1011."
Police are also looking for a five door, silver, Vauxhall Corsa, with the registration BG60 PMO. It is a hire car that's believed to have been used by the deceased family, but is not at their address and hasn't been seen since the bodies were discovered. Police say the inability to trace the car through Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology is a puzzle, and it's not inconceivable that the number plates on the vehicle could have been changed.
DSI Timmins said:
"I imagine that he's doing his best to lie low, he may be doing his best to leave the country. So actually, it's not unexpected that there aren't many sightings of Mr Du."
"He could be anywhere in the country quite frankly, if he's got access to the car. Even if he's dumped the car, he may well be taking public transport somewhere. We've got no idea where he might be headed and, as I say, he might very well be trying to leave the country."
Police haven't found Du's passport but have no information that he's tried to leave the country through official borders.
The murder weapon - which is a knife - has not yet been found and a forensic examination of the crime scene is still on going.
More than 60 officers are currently working on the case, and more may be brought in - possibly from different forces - to help.
Formal identification has not been able to take place as yet because police have been unable to locate relatives of the deceased family. However police say they strongly believe the names that have been released are correct.
Mr Ding worked at Manchester Metropolitan University, while his 47-year-old wife was a teacher in the area where she lived.
Xing and Alice both attended local schools.
A book of condolences has been set up at St Georges Church in Wootton. Church warden Peter Beddoes told Heart:
"When you get as shocking news as we've had in the last few days anyone, even if they're not religious, sometimes just like to go and talk to someone, just to talk it through. It's a very sad occasion."
He spoke about the mood of people who have been to pay tribute:
"Quiet, reflective and looking for answers. And I suppose it's only as time goes on that we'll hear more and more facts about what happened. But we're here just as central point of the village for anyone to come here."
Friends of Alice Ding have set up pages paying tribute to her and her relatives on social networking site Facebook.
Among the posts on one of three sites remembering the youngster was one which read: "r.i.p alice ding and her family you were such a nice girl x we will allways miss you !!! xxx''.
Another post, left on the site by a girl named Izzy, read: "It was so devastating, we were walking past her house seeing police tape everywhere, only a few days ago since i saw her last. never to be forgotten.''
Sean Connolly lives down the road from the house in Pioneer Close and says what's happened is unbelievable:
"It's a very close community. It just doesn't happen here. You don't expect it in this sort of area."
Tariq Shaqour also lives nearby:
"All I've heard from the neighbours is that they're a very good family, very polite, very friendly. The kids were very intelligent and academically minded."
Local officers have been conducting house-to-house inquiries and have been liaising with residents and local people to offer reassurance and advice over any safety concerns.
Members of the public who believe they may have relevant information about the deaths are asked to contact Northamptonshire Police on 0800 096 1011 or 0207 158 0126 between 8am and midnight and ask for the Operation Nene incident room.
Alternatively they can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where information can be provided anonymously.