Family killed in 'revenge' attack
A Chinese businessman, motivated by revenge, brutally knifed a family of four on the same day as the rest of the country celebrated the royal wedding, a court has heard.
Anxiang Du, 54, is accused of killing 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.
He has denied four counts of murder, and during the first day of his trial at Northampton Crown Court a jury of eight women and four men heard that he stabbed the Ding family to death in order to "avenge himself" after their business relationship turned sour and he ended up owing thousands of pounds in costs.
Outlining the case for the jury, William Harbage QC said: "The prosecution case is that this defendant, Anxiang Du, on the day of the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, on April 29th 2011, travelled to Northampton from his home in Coventry, via Birmingham, armed with a kitchen knife, and savagely stabbed to death firstly the two people, Mr and Mrs Ding, with whom he had been having a long-running legal dispute.
"Not content with killing them, the mother and father, in the kitchen of their own home, he then went upstairs to find their two daughters, Nancy aged 18 and Alice aged 12, cowering in a bedroom.
"He cold-bloodedly stabbed them to death as well."
Mr Harbage told the court, which contained members of Mrs Ding's family who had travelled from China to be present for the trial, that each member of the family had sustained a number of stab wounds, some of which were defensive, and some of which had penetrated the chest cavity causing fatal damage to the heart and lungs.
Mr Harbage said Du had carried out the killings in order to get revenge on Mr and Mrs Ding, with whom he had been in business.
"Why did he do it?" Mr Harbage asked jurors.
"The answer is quite simply revenge.
"The defendant Du and his wife and Mr and Mrs Ding used to be in business together.
"The business relationship turned sour.
"There followed a long running dispute lasting for 10 years involving protracted and acrimonious litigation in the civil courts for seven of those 10 years.
"Although Du won the first battle he lost the last and was left with a large sum of money to pay in costs, some £88,000.
"On the 28th of April 2011, the day before the killings, he was served with an injunction to prevent him from dissipating his assets.
"It was obvious to him that he had lost, he faced ruin, there was no other legitimate course of action for him to take to fight his case.
"And so 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 with whom he had no grievance whatsoever.
"Du made a plan and carried it out with ruthless efficiency."
Jurors were told that the killings could be timed accurately because a 999 call had been made from Alice's mobile phone at 3.32pm.
"The call was sent via BT, whose operator could hear the sound of female screams, more than one scream," Mr Harbage said.
There was no conversation between the caller and the operator during the "distressing" call, which jurors were told they would hear during the course of the trial.
Earlier that day, Du had visited his shop in the Pavilions Shopping Centre in Birmingham and left a note for his wife.
Mr Harbage said that translated from Mandarin it meant "best wishes" or "eternal blessing" and said "Qian Qian (the pet name for their son) will care about Mum forever! Everyone has to say farewell one day!"
"We say that is exactly as it says - a farewell note," Mr Harbage said.
Du then caught a train from Birmingham to Northampton before taking a bus to the Dings' home in Wootton.
Jurors heard that Du killed Mr and Mrs Ding downstairs first before making his way upstairs, leaving a trail of bloody fingerprints, and attacking the girls.
Before "making good his escape" after the brutal attacks, Du washed the blood from his hands and from the knife, the court heard.
The bodies of Mr and Mrs Ding were found downstairs in the kitchen, and Alice and Nancy were found dead in an upstairs bedroom - Alice on the bed and her sister on the floor.
Post-mortem examinations found that Mr Ding had been stabbed 23 times, Mrs Ding 13 times, Nancy had 11 stab wounds, and Alice had four.
Du then fled; he drove to London where he took a coach to Paris, then travelled down through France and Spain to Algeciras on the Mediterranean coast where he took a boat to Morocco.
It was from there that he was brought back to the UK by the authorities earlier this year, jurors heard.
Mr Harbage said there was no argument that Du was responsible for the killings, but the defendant would claim he should only be convicted of manslaughter on the basis of either diminished responsibility or loss of control.
This was an argument the prosecution did not accept, jurors were told, and was simply an attempt by Du to "avoid his full responsibility for these grotesque killings."
Mr Harbage told the court that the Dings, who lived in Pioneer Close in Wootton, were "hard-working, decent people of Chinese origin".
Mr Ding was a lecturer in polymer science at Manchester Metropolitan University while his wife was a businesswoman and translator.
The couple moved to the UK about 20 years ago and their two daughters were born here.
The court also heard a little about Du's background.
Mr Harbage told the jury that Du, who speaks litle English, was born in China and came to the UK in 1998 shortly after his wife, Can Chen.
The couple, who have a son called Boquian, are both doctors of traditional Chinese medicine.
The court heard that Mrs Ding met Du's wife and the two couples became friends and decided to go into business together in 1999.
Mr Harbage told the jury that the business was successful and shops were opened in Gloucester, Coventry and Cheltenham.
But in 2001, he said, there was an "incident" involving Du, Mrs Ding and a friend of hers.
Police were called and Du was arrested but no charges were brought.
In April of that year, Du and his wife were dismissed from the business, the court heard.
In 2004, Du started legal proceedings against the Dings over the joint ownership of the business and so began a long-running dispute.
Mr Harbage told jurors Du, who suffered from depression, was angry and made a decision to "exact his revenge on the Dings".
He said: "Any depression he may have had is irrelevant to that anger and desire for vengeance.
"His anger and desire for revenge was such that he killed not just the two people against whom he had a grievance but he decided to kill their children as well to fully avenge himself of the wrong which he perceived they had done to him.
"We say this is not loss of control, it is not diminished responsibility, it is not manslaughter. This is revenge and this is murder."
Giving evidence this afternoon, pathologist Professor Guy Rutty told the court he visited the Dings' house on the evening of May 1.
He told jurors that blood was found on the bannister and blood-stained footprint marks were found leading up the stairs.
Mr Ding suffered 23 stab wounds to the face, neck, upper torso, abdomen and arms.
Professor Rutty told jurors his death would not have been "instantaneous" but that he would have died a short time after due to blood loss.
He told jurors: "He would have been capable of speech and movement but would have become rapidly unconscious."
Mr Rutty told jurors the wounds were consistent with being caused by a single-edged sharp weapon such as a knife.
He concluded Mr Ding had died as a result of the stab wounds to his chest.
Prof Rutty went on to detail the injuries found on Mrs Ding's body.
He told jurors the 49-year-old sustained stab wounds to her chest, arms, neck, hands and wrist.
The pathologist concluded that Mrs Ding had also died as a result of the stab wounds to her chest.
Prof Rutty said the injuries were consistent with the use of a single-edged knife with a blade length of 16cm (six inches) and a width of 4.5cm to 5cm (two inches).
The pathologist said Mrs Ding suffered no defence injuries to her hands or legs.
As with her husband, Prof Rutty said Mrs Ding would not have died immediately after the attack but a short time after due to the blood loss.
Prof Rutty said Nancy sustained significant injuries to her chest, as well as a number of other wounds on her back, the base of her neck and her arms and armpit.
The post mortem exam also revealed wounds to her back and the base of her neck.
A "through and through" injury on her left palm was consistent with a defence injury, he told the court.
Prof Rutty said 12-year-old Alice had suffered four stab wounds - two to her chest and two to her right side.
She also had circular bruises to her arms, suggesting she had been held, the pathologist said.
There was no evidence of her suffering any defence injuries, he added.
As with their parents, Prof Rutty said both Nancy and Alice's deaths would not have been instantaneous.
He said their injuries were consistent with those found on their parents' bodies, meaning it was likely the same knife was used.
The cause of death in respect of both girls was found to be as a result of stab wounds to the chest, Prof Rutty said.
Du, wearing a black suit and light blue shirt, sat with his head down and propped on one hand as he listened intently to the pathologist's evidence, which he heard through a translator seated next to him in the dock.
After Prof Rutty finished giving evidence the trial was adjourned for the day and will resume at 10.30am tomorrow.