Chinese families in court over sentence for man who killed mentally ill neighbour in grave vandalism dispute

  • Elderly victim in Taixian suffered compulsion to dig up graves, court was told
  • Defendant claims self defence after ‘superstitious introvert’ vandalised family burial
PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 3:38pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 3:37pm

A man in Henan province who was jailed for seven years for killing a neighbour who vandalised his parents’ grave is at the centre of an appeal battle with his victim’s family.

On Wednesday, a relative of the dead man asked the court that defendant Xu Yiming be given a harsher sentence. The relative requested a term of 10 to 15 years and a fine of 153,000 yuan, compared to the seven years and 25,014 yuan fine handed out by the court, Hongxing News reported.

On Thursday, the defendant asked the court to cut his sentence, saying there was a mitigating circumstance. “I do not think I committed the crime intentionally. It was self defence,” Xu, 56, said at trial.

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Xu said he saw Ma Liucheng, 73, digging around his parents’ grave on the night of March 28 last year in Taixian.

Seeing the defendant, Ma picked up a wooden stick to attack him, the court heard. Xu disarmed Ma and started beating him until the older man cried out to stop.

Xu went home to tell his relatives, who went to check the family lair. There, they saw Ma, still conscious, lying on the ground. The defendant told the court they carried Ma back to the family house, where he died shortly afterwards.

The Xus called the police and it later emerged that Ma had bled to death. Xu said it was too dark to assess the extent of his victim’s injuries at the graveside.

Ma had vandalised the Xus’ grave twice before, Xu said. He and his two brothers would keep watch over the burial site, the court heard.

At trial, a nephew of the dead man’s told the court Ma was mentally ill.

In September 2017, Xu found the grave damaged and a footprint near the tomb gave him cause to believe Ma was responsible, the court was told.

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During Lunar New Year 2018, Ma was found asleep on the grave after digging down into half a metre [1.6 feet] of soil, revealing a coffin beneath.

After Xu complained to the head of the village, Ma’s guardian and nephew Ma Gen signed an agreement that he would watch his uncle and prevent more intrusions.

“He was mentally ill. He dug the graves of his own parents, my grandparents. Whenever he came up with the idea, he dug, ruining the feng shui,” Ma Gen told Shangyou News.

Ma Gen submitted a report to the court testifying to his uncle’s mental health problem.

The Mas and Xus had a good relationship for generations, he said.

Villagers were not aware of Ma’s fragile mental health, but described him as a superstitious introvert, the report said.