Murder-hunt plea in Chinese

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The Independent Online

Police in east London yesterday took the unusual step of holding a news conference in Chinese to appeal for witnesses to come forward in a double- murder case. The bodies of Tao Xhang, 25, and Fei Lin, 23, were discovered in Plaistow on 10 May. They had been stabbed some time earlier but the bodies were discovered only after neighbours complained of a smell from the flat in Glasgow Road.

Police believe four Chinese people could have important information. The police know who they are, but have been unable to contact them because they speak no English and are known only to a small group of Fukienese people from mainland China.

"Our appeal is for three Chinese men and one Chinese woman who can only speak Mandarin," said Detective Chief Inspector Peter Wiles. "Two may be related. We know who they are and what they look like but because of applications for political asylum, we are limited in what we can say and are prevented from naming them."

Police decided the only likely way of contacting them was through the Chinese media. Their problem of finding a Chinese-speaker was solved by Detective Superintendent Andy Chan, of the Hong Kong police, who is on secondment to Scotland Yard for two years.

DCI Wiles and DS Chan briefed members of the Chinese media at Stratford police station yesterday. They confirmed that Tao and Fei left China in 1994 and travelled overland to Britain, arriving in August 1994. They applied for political asylum a couple of months later.

The police investigation has taken them to the Netherlands and Ireland and places in Britain. They fear the inquiry may be linked to the smuggling of illegal entrants into Britain.

The bilingual conference seemed to please the Chinese journalists, who included representatives from CTN television, Sing Tao, a European Chinese newspaper, and Siyu magazine. Hilda Lee, a reporter for Siyu, said: "If they want to get evidence from the Chinese community it is very important. The community will be more helpful if their papers help to try and publicise the case."

The conference proceeded smoothly until DS Chan, who spoke Cantonese, was slightly flustered when CTN asked him to speak Mandarin. Cantonese and Mandarin are near-identical written but sound completely different spoken. He spoke nervously and briefly: "It sounds all

right to me," said DCI Wiles.