One of China's most wanted men, Zhou Kehua, shot dead by police in Chongqing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 4:44am

A massive manhunt for one of the nation's most wanted men ended yesterday when police shot him dead in Chongqing .

After eight years on the run, Zhou Kehua , 42, was killed in a mountainous district on the outskirts of the southwestern municipality, where he was believed to have been hiding after two separate killings on Friday that police linked to him.

The deputy chief of the Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau, Huang Wei , said Zhou was gunned down at 6.50am outside a shoe factory in Tongjiaqiao village in the Shapingba district.

Zhou was linked to 10 killings and a series of armed robberies since April 2004, including the killing of a People's Liberation Army guard in 2009, officials said. Earlier media reports said he had killed 11 people.

Police officers Wang Xiaoyu and Zhou Jin were named as the ones who shot the fugitive. "They were tailing him, but Zhou immediately rushed down a narrow lane after realising he was being followed," Huang said.

CCTV, citing the two officers, said the suspect appeared anxious and flustered. "When we were about 10 metres apart, he turned around and mumbled to himself about taking a wrong turn, and he gradually approached us. I could feel he was about to attack, so I pulled my gun out immediately, but he fired at us first," Zhou Jin was quoted as saying. "We were only about three metres apart. I was behind a pole, with my back against a wall."

The officer said Zhou Kehua fired three shots at them in the lane.

"One of his bullets hit the ground and ricocheted, injuring Wang's ankle. We each fired two rounds and took his life," Zhou Jin said, calling the gun battle intense.

Police released several photos of the gruesome scene online, showing Zhou Kehua's body face down with a long stream of blood running from it. He was wearing a blue check shirt and grey trousers. Two guns and a pair of glasses were seen nearby.

One photo showed a man in shorts and sandals, presumably an officer, rifling through items on the ground next to two guns, while not wearing gloves.

Next to the body were personal belongings, including sunglasses, a mobile phone and train tickets, according to police.

The Tongjiaqiao area came to a standstill following the shooting, with many bystanders gathering near the scene.

At a press conference, Huang disputed accounts of the shooting posted on microblogs by mainland journalists and the Chongqing Times newspaper, which reported from the scene that Zhou took his own life after being shot in the waist by police.

Some of the entries were later deleted after Xinhua reported that Zhou was shot dead by the officers.

Huang was adamant that the officers killed Zhou, and said that two different pistols, three ammunition clips and 62 bullets were found on his body.

Huang also said that the ammunition shells at the scenes of Friday's killings bore similar markings as those found at the scenes of several armed robberies and shootings in Chongqing, Jiangsu and Hunan provinces.

A four-day, round-the-clock manhunt leading to the shoot-out involved about 10,000 policemen, 117 search dogs and 419 police vehicles. Caves, graveyards, vacant homes, hostels, restaurants and construction sites were among possible hiding places searched.

On Friday, three people were shot outside a Bank of China branch in Shapingba district. One woman was killed, and the attacker, said to be Zhou, made off with more than 70,000 yuan (HK$86,000).

Police said Zhou shot dead a railway police officer on a railway track later that day.