Army joins police in hunt for killer in Chongqing

Massive search launched in Chongqing for one of the most wanted criminals in connection with the shooting deaths of 11 people; 50,000 yuan reward offered

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2012, 12:12pm

Police have enlisted the help of the army in the hunt for one of the country's most wanted criminals, who is believed to have killed 11 people in eight years, including two last week.

Police have identified the suspect as Zhou Kehua , 42, from Chongqing .

On Friday morning, a gunman shot three people outside a bank in Shapingba district, killing one of them, the Beijing News reported.

At noon, a railway policeman was gunned down after he stopped and questioned a suspect. His body was later found in bushes.

A People's Liberation Army officer told the Oriental Morning Post yesterday an army unit from Chengdu had been sent at the weekend to help in the hunt.

The hunt for Zhou has been extended from the Jiandaoshan and Geleshan regions of the municipality to the mountainous areas of two neighbouring counties, Tongliang and Bishan.

The authorities have offered a reward of 50,000 yuan (HK$61,000) for information leading to the arrest of Zhou.

Parts of the city had to be shut down while police conducted their operations.

The Oriental Morning Post said a tattered T-shirt, two cigarette boxes and broken wires were found in a cave on Gele Mountain. The highway on the mountain was being closely guarded.

Many police officers on the hunt were reported to have suffered heatstroke and were being supplied with food and water by passers-by.

After talking to several witnesses, the two newspapers managed to track down the driver of a motorcycle taxi that picked up a suspicious man on Friday about five minutes after the shooting at the bank.

"A man ran to me and asked how much it would cost to go to Xinqiao. I said 5 yuan, and he got on," the driver said.

"He was gasping and he looked pale and anxious."

The man also carried a heavy shopping bag, he said.

Police are questioning the driver and have detained his vehicle.

Zhou is known to have a habit of shooting his victims in the head.

Police said Zhou was also suspected of involvement in nine other deaths since April 2004.

The victims were not only from Chongqing but also Changsha , in Hunan province, and Nanjing , in Jiangsu province. Most of them were robbed and killed after they withdrew money from banks.

It was reported that Zhou's mother lives alone in a village in rural Chongqing and has been placed under police watch since the Lunar New Year, following a shooting.

Zhou was reportedly convicted in 2005 of a firearms offence.

"He never used to socialise much, but he loved to read detective novels. He never complained about hard work or got into fights with anyone," a former neighbour told the Oriental Morning Post.

Zhou came from a poor family and was educated up to junior high school. Some of his former schoolmates said he was an avid swimmer and loyal friend.

After turning 18, Zhou, like most of the other young men in his village, left to seek jobs as labourers along the Jialing River in Sichuan . He was paid 30 yuan a day. Zhou held the same job for more than 10 years.

He subsequently worked as a loading dock labourer at the Chongqing North railway station and as a minibus driver.

The Oriental Morning Post also reported that he had been married and had a son, but their whereabouts were not mentioned.