Grief-stricken residents of Tangshan say they are convinced the man responsible for a mass food poisoning case that killed at least 38 people has been arrested. But they are less confident about what they have been told regarding how many people died in the tragedy, with reports from the scene conflicting with the position taken by state media. 'We'll never know the real death toll. It is too sensitive,' said one life-long resident. Concern over how people will react to the poisoning has resulted in a virtual media blackout on the mainland, except for approved reports from Xinhua. The number of dead, which included many schoolchildren, has alarmed officials and raised concerns about possible unrest in the area. Xinhua initially reported 41 dead on Saturday, before withdrawing the report. State radio reported 49 dead on Tuesday. Local television originally put the death tally at 71. Other reports have put the number of dead as high as 100. The China Daily reported on Tuesday about 400 students and construction workers had showed symptoms of serious poisoning after eating products from the Heshengyuan soy milk store, and that 300 had been admitted to hospital. Officials were quick to make an arrest and released details of the case that have convinced many local residents that the suspect is guilty. Chen Zhengping was arrested on Sunday as he was reportedly attempting to flee on a train. The arrest was reported three days after the incident. Chen will likely get the death penalty, which is common in cases considered to threaten public security, lawyers said. Local papers carried the news of his capture on their front pages yesterday, but used the wording set down by Xinhua and state television. Chen ran a snack shop which was in competition with another store, Zhengwu, which prepared baked goods for schools, factories and the Heshengyuan store. Xinhua said Chen 'harboured hatred' towards the owner of the more successful shop, so he placed poison in his competitor's cakes and fried dough. State media has not explained how Chen managed to carry out the act. The alley where Zhengwu is located was still sealed off by police yesterday, while a second shop run by Chen and the Heshengyuan outlet remained shuttered. Tangshan residents described Chen, in his 20s, as an outsider though police said he grew up in the town of Qiaolin, north of Nanjing. Chen's envy of his more successful neighbour was well-known, residents said. 'He had red-eye disease,' said one shopkeeper, using a Chinese term for jealousy. Residents said they hoped such an incident would never happen again. 'If it does happen again, this is the fault of the leaders,' one resident said. Shop owner Qu Xieming has sold 15 wreaths to 30 families burying their dead. 'We want society to be good,' Mr Qu said. Other residents said they will never forget the 'September 14' incident. The community's secondary schools were closed yesterday, with police guarding the gates. Many of the victims were students from the Zuochang Secondary School. Some residents fear the publicity over the incident will hurt Tangshan's attempts to lure more tourists to its hot springs. 'This incident will definitely have a negative impact on business,' said one man with a shop a few doors down from Heshengyuan, where victims collapsed in convulsions.