Six members of a religious cult have been arrested for killing a woman at a McDonald's in Shandong province in a case that has prompted national outrage over the failure of onlookers and restaurant staff to intervene.
The suspects, all members of the Quannengshen (Almighty God) cult, were collecting telephone numbers to recruit members in the Zhaoyuan restaurant at about 9pm on Wednesday. They were said to have become agitated when the victim, surnamed Wu, rejected them.
Online videos and photographs showed the suspects beating Wu with chairs, then with a metal mop. The beating continued even after the mop broke, with attackers kicking Wu's head.
Watch: Cults suspects arrested for McDonald's killing in China's Shandong province
Onlookers and restaurant workers who failed to intervene were castigated for their "cold-heartedness" by internet users and relatives of the victim.
State-run CCTV quoted a suspect as saying the beating started when his daughter accused Wu of being an "evil spirit". Wu resisted, but that only led to a more ferocious beating that continued even after police arrived.
A relative of the dead woman said the family was distraught that no one tried to protect Wu, the mother of a five-year-old boy. She was waiting to meet her husband after work.
"Their son doesn't know what has happened to his mum, and we don't know how long we can keep him from knowing the truth," he said.
"We can understand that people get scared and it all happened so suddenly, but we cannot help wondering what would have happened if other witnesses were a bit braver. After all, the attackers weren't holding guns or knives."
A witness, though, said that he, another onlooker and a restaurant worker had asked the attackers to stop, but were warned by a female suspect that "whoever intervened would be beaten to death".
Five suspects were detained for suspected intentional homicide. A sixth will be dealt with separately because he is under the age of criminal responsibility.