Dead cat mystery in Chinese graduate murders probe

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The Independent Online

The mystery of a drowned cat was at the centre of an investigation into the brutal murder of two Chinese graduates today.

Xi Zhou and her boyfriend Zhen Xing Yang, both 25, were attacked in their flat in Newcastle's West End with a knife and another sharp weapon and suffered severe head injuries.

Their black and white cat was found hidden in a bowl in their bathroom by forensic officers who were painstakingly sifting through their home for clues.

The bowl was covered with a towel and kitchen gloves.

Northumbria Police will consult the Chinese community to find if their was any cultural significance to the murder victims' pet being killed.

At a news conference at Byker Police Station, Detective Superintendent Steve Wade said: "If this cat died naturally, you wouldn't imagine they (the owners) would put it in a bowl containing water, cover it with a towel and put kitchen gloves on it."

A post-mortem examination was being carried out on the cat.

Mr Wade said Mr Yang suffered extensive bruising to his arms up to an hour before he suffered his fatal head injuries.

He said the injuries were likely to have been inflicted as he tried to protect his head, but would not speculate if the victim, known as Kevin, had been tortured.

He said: "He has certainly been subjected to an extensive assault, which has caused very significant bruising to the forearm."

Police were unable to say which of the victims was killed first.

Officers have contacted the family of Mr Yang over the phone in Dalian City, China.

They spoke to his girlfriend's family in the province of Hunan earlier.

Forensic tests were still to be carried out at the blood-stained address in Croydon Road, three days after the bodies were found by friends of the couple.

They met at Newcastle University where they both took MAs, graduating in September 2006.

Since then Ms Zhou, known as Cici, took a job waitressing at the Wagamama restaurant in Newcastle.

Police have not yet established Mr Yang's occupation, despite looking at the couple's bank accounts.

They have ruled out any Triad link, or drugs, and said the murders remained motiveless.

Mr Wade said an offender profiler will be brought in to help the investigation.

He said: "He will take a look at the sequence of events and give us some assistance into what happened."

He added: "There are a lot of unanswered questions.

"We are experienced detectives, and everyone will have a theory, but what we have to do as investigators is keep an open mind and rely upon expert evidence.

"At this stage we have no motive as to why these two people have been killed which could be properly put forward as a reason why they should be attacked with such brutality."

He added: "Sometimes the police hold news conferences like this and go through the motions with the media when they already have it in the bag, but this really is an undetected homicide.

"We are beginning to make inroads into their friends and associates, but we are a long way short of establishing a motive for this crime, and we are a long way short of arresting anyone."