Brother-in-law Robert Xie guilty of slaughtering Sydney's Lin family

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 9:20am

Robert Xie, a former surgeon, has been found guilty of murdering five members of a Chinese-Australian family in Sydney, including two children, in a gruesome case that shocked the country.

Robert Xie, 53, was charged with killing his Chinese-born brother-in-law Norman Lin, Lin’s wife Lily, their sons Henry, 12, and Terry, 9, and Lily’s sister Irene.

Their bodies were found in their northwestern Sydney home in July 2009.

The long-running case saw Xie - an ear, nose and throat surgeon in China before moving to Australia in 2002 - face four murder trials. Two were aborted, one ended in a hung jury and the most recent retrial lasted six months.

Xie was found guilty by the majority of a New South Wales Supreme Court jury, and will be sentenced on February 10, a court official said.

As the 11-to-one verdict was handed down on Thursday, Xie told the court he did not murder the Lin family. “I am innocent,” he told the jury as he left the court. His wife, Kathy, began to cry.

This was a well-planned crime of a personal nature, by a single person who has carefully improvised a murder weapon
Prosecutor Tanya Smith

Prosecutors alleged that Xie was motivated by bitterness towards the family and its successes.

It was Xie and his wife Kathy Lin, the sister of Norman, who discovered the bodies and called police, sparking a mammoth investigation spanning Australia and China. He was eventually charged in 2011.

The three adults were killed in their beds, with their faces “smashed by a hammer-like object” with a rope attached to it. The children were murdered in their rooms with one hit 18 times.

Xie had spent almost five years on remand in jail after the killings.

The crown said Xie had been motivated by anger and resentment over his perceived “subordinate status” within the extended family and the uncritical regard given to his brother-in-law Min Lin. The crown also suggested there was a sexual motive.

Prosecutors also said Xie also had a financial incentive to carry out the killings and had gone to great lengths to gain control of his brother-in-law’s assets.

These included the family’s newsagency, their North Epping home, a unit at Merrylands and a commercial unit which had just been leased.

The defence pointed to Xie’s alibi, supported by his wife, that he was in bed asleep with her when the crimes occurred in the nearby Lin residence and also said more than one assailant was likely to have been involved.

In the days after the murders, Xie and his wife made emotional public pleas for information to help solve the terrible crimes. He said he couldn’t imagine any reason why anyone would want to harm the family, describing his dead brother-in-law as a “very nice, hard-working, friendly person”.

Police, however, were busy building a case and arrested the former ear, nose and throat specialist in May 2011.

They found Xie had left the bed he shared with his wife in the early hours of 18 July 2009, hours after attending a “normal” Friday-night dinner with his extended family.

The crown suggested Xie sedated his wife before creeping into the Lin residence around the corner. Lin lied at times to “assist” her husband, not because she knew he was guilty but because she was convinced he had been framed by police, said the prosecutor, Tanya Smith.

At the Lin house, Xie disconnected the electricity before making his way upstairs in the dark. He then used a hammer-like object to attack Min and Lily as they lay in their bed. He did the same to Lily’s sister Irene in the next room.

Blood splatters revealed a furious struggle took place in a third bedroom occupied by Xie’s nephews. But Henry and Terry still suffered the same shocking fate.

“This was a well-planned crime of a personal nature, by a single person who has carefully improvised a murder weapon,” Smith said.

Four of the victims died from the combined effects of blunt-force trauma and asphyxia, involving injuries indicative of neck compression.

The crown cited Xie’s medical skills, while Witness A, who was in jail with Xie, said Xie had showed him a particular location on the neck which was incapacitating.

Witness A also testified to seeing Xie, who always appeared calm in the dock, screaming at an elderly inmate who was using a walking frame. “The whole [exercise] yard stopped,” he said. “It was like zero to 100.”

The defence barrister, Robert Webb, had argued the “highly organised” and brutal execution involved multiple assailants, also contending that Xie had got on well with his relatives.

But the crown said the boys and Irene were “collateral damage”, or secondary victims, who may have woken up when the couple were being murdered.

“The crown case is that he came to kill Min and Lily and was prepared to kill others should the need arise.”