A two-day manhunt for a baby boy and the man who kidnapped him ended last night after the suspect turned himself in and admitted choking the baby to death, Jilin police said.
Zhou Xijun, a 48-year-old native of the northeastern province, surrendered to police in Changchun at around 5pm yesterday and confessed to killing the two-month-old after stealing his father's SUV, in which he had left the baby, according to a post on the police's official microblog account.
Zhou said he did not realise there was a baby in the back seat until he made it onto a highway and the boy started to cry.
A search for Xu Haobo's remains was continuing last night after Zhou told police he buried the body in the snow somewhere along a road in Yongfa township, Gongzhuling city, about 60 kilometres from Changchun where the SUV was stolen.
The boy's father said he left the infant inside the grey Toyota RAV4 on Monday morning as he arrived for work at a convenience store in the city's Luyuan district. The father said he left the doors unlocked and the engine running to keep the child warm while he turned up the store's heat.
Many of the millions who had anxiously watched the dramatic search unfold were devastated by its violent outcome.
"I can't breathe right now; I hope this news is wrong," said Shao Fangxiu, of Shenzhen.
Within an hour of the police's announcement, internet users had posted more than 60,000 messages mourning the child on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo. Some issued angry calls to give Zhou the death penalty.
Earlier, authorities said that more than 10,000 police officers had fanned out on a massive manhunt that extended to neighbouring Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia .
The abandoned SUV was found yesterday morning outside the Yingchengzi Elementary School in Yongfa township.
A security guard at the school called police yesterday morning to say that a man dropped off the SUV at the school at around 8.20am on Monday and said he would return for it that night, China News Service reported.
He then got into a minivan operating as an illegal taxi. The guard called police yesterday when the man failed to return. Police then tracked down the minivan driver, who said he had seen no baby with Zhou.