Police yesterday confirmed the deaths of 11 victims in a mysterious disappearance case in the southwestern province of Yunnan which has made national headlines for the past few weeks.
Zhang Yongming, a 56-year-old farmer who had previously served jail sentences, was suspected of attacking and murdering 11 young men near Nanmen village, Jinning county, since 2008, Xinhua reported yesterday.
The report also said the central government would severely penalise local government officials whose negligence of duty had left the suspect at large for several years.
The suspect had chosen quiet country roads to ambush the victims, and after killing them he tried to destroy the evidence by burning, burying and dissecting the bodies, the report said quoting police.
The Xinhua report gave no details of the tools and methods used by the suspect, and rampant online rumours that he had cannibalised some of the victims and sold the remains to a food market were not confirmed.
Chen Jinrong, whose son went missing in September last year, said that police had reached him yesterday to confirm the death of the 17-year-old.
Since Zhang's arrest three weeks ago after a victim's remains were found in his home, the families of Chen and the other victims had been waiting painfully for the final results of DNA-matching conducted by police.
'We had been torn by the willingness to know the result and the fear to receive confirmation,' Chen said.
'Now they say that my son is gone forever, I just want to join him for the journey to the other world.'
Chen said that he had no more words to say to local government officials, who had been criticised by victims' relatives for attempting to cover up a series of missing people - previously reported as 17 in total - to protect the county's 'public image'. Chen said he now hoped that such tragedies would not take place elsewhere on the mainland in future.
Last month, parents of a missing college student located and united relatives of other victims and brought the case to the media. Detailed investigative reports by regional and national newspapers generated a huge impact online, forcing the central government to send a team of experts led by the Ministry of Public Security to Nanmen to take over the case.
Police unearthed human remains on the suspect's property, and in a small field for corn and vegetables.
The suspect's neighbours said they were not surprised by Zhang's arrest because he was the loneliest, poorest and least-welcome person in the village at the southern tip of Kunming, the provincial capital.
A neighbour had even reported Zhang's occasionally suspicious behaviour to police, such as harassing young people through violence. But police insisted Zhang should be pardoned because he had been suffering from mental illness.