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Diao Aiqing who was murdered in January 1996 in Nanjing. Photo: Diao family

China cold case: family of Diao Aiqing, who was murdered and left in 2,000 pieces, sue university over her death

  • Diao Aiqing, 19-year-old first year student at Nanjing University’s Adult Education College, was last seen alive on January 10, 1996
  • Her body had been boiled and cut into more than 2,000 pieces and wrapped in bags

The family of a student brutally murdered 25 years ago in one of China’s most notorious cold cases has launched a lawsuit against her university for failing in its duty of care.

Diao Aiqing, a 19-year-old first-year student at Nanjing University’s Adult Education College, was last seen alive on January 10, 1996, when she left her dorm building after an argument with the building’s management.

Nine days later her body, which had been boiled and cut into more than 2,000 pieces and wrapped in bags, were found in eight locations on and near the university campus. The brutality of the murder shocked China, but the killer was never caught.

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On January 20, the 20th anniversary of her murder, the Ministry of Public Security Criminal Investigation Bureau said in a statement that the case was not limited to a statute of 20 years for prosecution and that police would continue to investigate.

Zhou Zhaocheng, a lawyer with Beijing Yifa Law Firm, said in a statement that he went to Gulou District People’s Court with the victim’s elder sister on Monday to file a civil lawsuit against the Nanjing University on behalf of Diao’s parents.

The parents believe the university’s dormitory management staff unfairly punished Diao for her dorm mate using electronic appliances, which led to Diao leaving the dorm building in anger and, they argue, subsequently contributed to her murder, Zhou said.

lawyer Zhou Zhaocheng and Diao Aiqing’s sister Diao Aihua in Nanjing on March 29, 2021. Photo

When Diao did not return home on the night of January 10 Nanjing University should have informed her parents that she was missing, argued Zhou, but they did not notify the family until after police found Diao’s body.

“It is precisely because Nanjing University did not perform its dormitory management responsibilities that the case missed the best time window for investigation and the murderer had sufficient time to commit the crime and escape. The lack of evidence causes the case to remain unsolved for 25 years,” Zhou said.

Because some of Diao’s body parts were found on the campus it cannot be ruled that Diao was murdered elsewhere. Her parents believe that Nanjing University was lax in its duty of care in school management and that this contributed to her murder, Zhou added.

The family is suing the university for 1.62 million yuan (US$246,000) for funeral fees, and other damages.

Diao Aihua, the victim’s elder sister, told IFeng News that the lawsuit was about the university’s responsibility from the time she left the building to her murder and it was not about seeking compensation but wanted to “seek justice”.

“We wish to know exactly what happened to Diao Aiqing on the day she left the dormitory. Was she murdered on university campus? What’s the university’s responsibility? We hope the court can find out,” Zhou, the lawyer, said.

“My parents are very old. [Seeking justice] will make them go with peace in future,” Diao’s sister said.

In recent years several high-profile cold cases have been solved with widespread DNA testing and comparison, raising hopes that Diao’s case could also be solved.

Last year Xuzhou police found DNA collected from a suspect involved in a crime very similar to Diao’s; the rape and death of a medical school student in Nanjing 28 years ago. Police eventually identified a male family member of the suspect to be the killer of the medical student.
In 2016 Gao Chengyong, responsible for murdering 11 females from 1988 to 2002, was identified after his uncle was detained for bribery and the DNA found to be a close match to the samples at the crime scenes. Gao was executed last year.