Businessman key suspect in Northampton murder of four

A businessman dealing in herbal remedies, who left an apparent suicide note at his workplace, was yesterday named as the prime suspect in the murder of a Chinese university lecturer and his family.

Anxiang Du, 52, is being sought in connection with the deaths of Jifeng Ding, a chemistry expert, his wife Helen Chui and their two daughters – Alice, 12, and 18-year-old Xing – after their bodies were discovered with multiple knife wounds at their home in a Northampton cul-de-sac on Sunday.

Detectives warned members of the public not to approach Mr Du, who manages a Chinese medicine shop in central Birmingham, saying he was likely to be in a "quite desperate" state of mind. Police said they believed Mr Ding and his family may been targeted because of business dealings between Mr Du and Helen Chui, a part-time teacher.

As friends and colleagues paid tribute to the family, officers said that Mr Du, from Coventry, had left a note written in Mandarin at the medicine shop on Friday which suggested it was "time to say goodbye". It is believed that the suspect may have fled following the killings in a hired Vauxhall Corsa used by the Ding family. Neighbours in the Wootton area of Northampton alerted police on Sunday evening after growing concern that the family had not been seen at their home, a detached modern house on an estate built on a former Army barracks. One witness said a pool of blood could be seen in front of the garage door, suggesting one of the victims was attacked outside the house or had tried to flee, only to be dragged back inside.

Detective Superintendent Glynn Timmins, the officer leading the quadruple murder hunt, played down suggestions that the killings were gang-related, saying that although the business dealings between Mr Du and Mrs Chui, 47, were complex, they appeared to be legitimate.

Mr Ding, 46, worked as a lecturer in polymers at Manchester Metropolitan University, commuting from Northampton during the week.

Manchester's Chinatown district has known to be the scene of clashes between rival Triad gangs but Mr Ding, known as Jeff, stayed in university accommodation and is not thought to have had close links to the area.

Mr Timmins said officers did not know if Mr Du, who was last seen at his workplace on Friday morning, had taken his life and were working on the assumption that he remained alive. Warning members of the public not to approach the suspect, the detective said: "He's likely to be frightened. He's likely to be quite desperate and he's certainly going to be very anxious and nervous."

Police believe the family were still alive on Friday afternoon after Alice, whose mother taught Mandarin at her Northampton primary school, posted a Facebook message about the royal wedding.

Mr Ding and his wife originated from Hangzhou, in eastern China, and had no known family in Britain. Friends said that Alice and Xing had been talented musicians with the elder girl, also known as Nancy, hoping to gain entry to Cambridge University. Students at Manchester Metropolitan have set up a Facebook page called the Jeff Ding Appreciation Society.