Family's killer gets 40 years
A deranged businessman who murdered a family of four in a bloody revenge attack after a commercial relationship turned sour has been jailed for at least 40 years.
Anxiang Du, 54, stabbed to death Manchester Metropolitan University lecturer Jifeng "Jeff'" Ding, his wife, Ge "Helen" Chui, and their two daughters Xing "Nancy", 18, and Alice, 12, on April 29, 2011.
Du fled the country after the cold-blooded murders and later admitted the killings but said he should be convicted of manslaughter on the basis of either diminished responsibility or loss of control.
But jurors at Northampton Crown Court rejected the claim yesterday, taking just over three hours to unanimously convict him of the murders.
Sentencing Du, who stood in the dock staring down at his hands, Mr Justice Flaux told him the jury had rejected his defence of diminished responsibility or loss of control.
The judge said: "What is clear from the evidence and the verdicts is that these were cold-blooded murders which, in my view, were pre-meditated and were considered acts of revenge in which you wiped out an entire family."
Barristers for Du had argued he should be convicted of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility or loss of control as he was suffering a severe depressive illness at the time of the killings but jurors dismissed the claims.
The judge said: "I'm quite satisfied that hatred and anger and your desire for revenge was what motivated you to act as you did on the 29th of April, not the moderate depression you suffered."
The judge said he believed Du had formulated his plan on the night of April 28 or the morning of the next day before carrying out the "frenzied attack".
He said CCTV footage that showed him travelling to the Dings' home revealed he was "calm and methodic" and a "man on a mission."
The killings were "savage butchery" with an intent to kill, the judge added.
He went on: "You did not lose your self control in killing Jeff Ding, in effect you executed the man you hated."
During Du's two-week trial, the jury heard that he carried out the killings with "ruthless efficiency" after he lost a 10-year legal battle with the Ding family and ended up owing £88,000 in court costs.
Tests revealed that the family had been stabbed a total of 51 times after their bodies were discovered at their home two days after the murders.
Post-mortem examinations showed that Du stabbed Mr Ding 23 times and Mrs Ding 13 times, leaving them to bleed to death in their kitchen.
With their blood on his hands, he went upstairs and knifed Nancy 11 times, and Alice four.
Mr Justice Flaux said he believed Du had attacked and killed Mrs Ding for the same reason he had murdered her husband - as a pre-planned act of revenge for his predicament in the civil litigation which he blamed on the Dings - before attacking the couple's daughters.
"Once again, you clearly intended to execute her, as you had her husband, as part of your campaign of revenge that day," the judge said.
"Not content with the slaughter of the parents downstairs, you then went upstairs to the back bedroom where the two young Ding girls were cowering.
"It is apparent from the fact that Nancy's mobile made the 999 call, that they had heard what was happening downstairs and she was frantically trying to ring the police for help.
"At that moment it seems you came into the room and within a short period of time you had also murdered those poor defenceless girls.
"It is clear from their terrible haunting screams on the 999 call that it was during that call that you murdered them."
During the trial, jurors heard that Du made his plan and carried out the vicious murders after he was left "angry, humiliated and facing financial ruin" after losing the wrangle over a Chinese herbal medicine business he and his wife had owned with the Dings.
Du travelled from his shop in Birmingham to the home of the Ding family in Pioneer Close, Wootton, Northamptonshire, armed with a knife and his passport on the day of the Royal Wedding in 2011.
Following the stabbings, he went on the run for more than a year.
The killer drove to London in the Dings' car and took a coach to Paris the day after carrying out the murders. He travelled on to Spain and then took a boat to Morocco.
He was finally arrested on a building site in Tangier last July, after 14 months on the run, and was extradited to the UK in February this year to stand trial.
Mr Justice Flaux added: "The psychological and emotional impact of the destruction of the entire Ding family upon Jifeng and Helen Ding's parents and the rest of their families has been truly devastating.
"I have read the moving victim impact statements they have provided to the court.
"In a very real sense you have destroyed their lives as well. At a time of their lives when they might have expected to enjoy the success of their granddaughters and nieces, both of whom were talented young people with a bright future, their lives have been senselessly cut short by your murderous attack."
The judge told Du he had borne in mind that setting a lengthy minimum term he must serve in prison before being eligible for parole would "mean that you will grow old, if not die, in prison", but the brutality of the four killings justified such a tariff.
Mr Justice Flaux said he had considered mitigation put forward by Du's barrister, Rebecca Trowler QC, that Du was suffering from depression, that he had been through a long period of stress because of the litigation, that he was of previous good character with no criminal convictions, and that he felt remorse for the crimes.
He told Du, who appeared in court wearing a dark suit and light shirt: "Although it is true that the Dings had not complied with various court orders in that civil litigation, your remedy lay in seeking further assistance from the court.
"Nothing they had done or failed to do could begin to amount to provocation such as could mitigate, let alone justify, your destruction of the entire family, including two innocent girls.
"Whilst it is true that you were of previous good character, that can have little, if any, impact upon the severity of the sentence in view of the horrendous nature of these killings.
"Your counsel has relied upon your remorse for these killings.
"Since you did not give evidence, the court can only go on what you said to the psychiatrists about being sorry and what your counsel says on instructions.
"I have some doubt whether you were showing genuine remorse as opposed to feeling sorry for the situation in which you find yourself, but, even giving you the benefit of the doubt, the gravity of your offending is so serious that even genuine remorse could only play a very limited role in mitigation."
The 999 call received on the day of the murders from Alice Ding's mobile phone was found to be "mishandled" by police, resulting in officers being sent to the wrong address and the call being closed prematurely.
An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the dropped call concluded: "Had police used more detailed checks and a mapping system available to them, the need for a subscriber check would have been established, the correct address in Pioneer Close would have been identified and in all likelihood attended by officers within minutes."
Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Tom Davies, from Northamptonshire Police, admitted they would "never know" what might have happened had the call been handled correctly.
The force said it was "unlikely" that the Ding family could have been saved, but it was possible that Du could still have been at the address if they had gone to the right location.
It also emerged after the trial that officers missed the bodies when they were sent by West Midlands Police on the morning of May 1 to talk to the Dings in connection with the disappearance of Du. He had been reported missing by his wife the day after the killings.
When there was no answer, officers from Northamptonshire Police simply posted a card through the letterbox and left.
Hours later, the bodies were discovered after a neighbour called the police to report he had seen a body lying on the floor through a back window of the Dings' home.