Zhang Jun - once dubbed China's most wanted criminal - told a witness testifying against him that she should thank him for sparing her life, it was reported yesterday. The trial of Zhang and 10 accomplices, including four of his lovers, began on Saturday in Chongqing No 1 Intermediate People's Court. They are accused of being responsible for the deaths of 28 people, a series of armed robberies and more than 20 assaults from 1993 to last year. Seven more gang members went on trial in Changde Intermediate Court in Changde, Hunan province, where they were accused of carrying out a botched robbery at the Agricultural Bank in September last year. Twelve people died. According to Guangzhou newspaper the Southern Metropolis News, Zhang made the chilling remark when questioned by a judge over details of a shop robbery in Chongqing in 1995. He turned to Zhou Mi, a sales assistant who had just told the court how Zhang gunned down a cleaner in front of her, and said: 'You should thank me for not killing you as well.' Zhang's four lovers tried to blame the 35-year-old leader for the crimes they allegedly committed. Yan Min told the court she did not plan any of the murders and did not share any of the loot Zhang took. The oldest of the four lovers, Qin Zhibi, denied playing any part in the crimes and said she was kept in the dark until the last minute. Both women had relationships with Zhang for many years. Earlier, official newspapers reported in detail how they allegedly helped Zhang pick the targets and even bought weapons. Zhang, who was assigned two lawyers, refused their service and defended himself instead. He is likely to be given the death penalty but some of his gang may receive suspended death sentences for volunteering information. Official newspapers said the trials would last three days. Zhang and his gang terrorised Chongqing and its neighbouring areas for years before eventually being captured. He was arrested in Chongqing 18 days after the Changde robbery went wrong. He has been quoted as saying he had wanted to kill himself but was overpowered by police before he could pull the trigger. Zhang has confessed to his crimes, according to previous media reports.