Man found guilty of Chinese student murders

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The Independent Online

A restaurant worker was found guilty today of the murder of two Chinese graduates in their home.

Guang Hui Cao killed Xi Zhou and Zhen Xing Yang, both 25, at their home in Croydon Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, on August 7 last year.

A jury at Newcastle Crown Court found the 31-year-old guilty of two counts of murder today after a three-week trial.

The popular couple, known by their anglicised names of Kevin Yang and Cici Zhou, were discovered by friends two days after they were killed in their flat.

Miss Zhou was found lying face down on a bed. Her killer had bound her wrists with tape and then hit her over the head with a heavy weapon, possibly a hammer.

A piece of towelling was stuffed into her mouth, which had been taped shut, and she suffocated around 90 minutes after the ordeal began.

Mr Yang was discovered in the other bedroom, having been hit with a hammer in the face and head. His throat was slashed despite him being unconscious already.

The court heard that the couple could have been killed for their part in a lucrative internet betting operation which saw £233,000 pass through their bank accounts in three years.

Mr Yang was involved in sending information from live football matches to Chinese gamblers who benefited from a TV time delay of several seconds, allowing them to bet on events already knowing the outcome.

He also supplied fake education certificates and other documents to Chinese students who wanted to enrol on education courses in the UK, or get jobs on returning to China.

Cao, of Castle Close, Morpeth, Northumberland, had pretended he wanted to sub-let a room in their flat to make contact with the popular couple before killing them.

After the murder, he changed his clothes and fled from the property with laptop computers and mobile phones which linked him to the couple.

The phones were found dumped in a nearby park by two boys, with the batteries and Sim cards missing.

They were handed to police after the murders were featured on the Crimewatch programme, and police discovered phone contacts between the couple and Cao.

He was arrested at his home and police discovered a flake of Mr Yang's blood on Cao's glasses, while more blood was found in two recesses of Cao's watch.

In his defence, Cao claimed he had been blackmailed into unwittingly helping to set up the couple's deaths after threats were made to his family in China.

He said he was in the flat at Croydon Road when they were killed, but was tied up and locked in the bathroom.

He said masked gunmen burst into the house and killed Mr Yang because he made someone "unhappy" with his behaviour.

He said he was afraid to contact police because he was frightened that his parents would be harmed if he came forward, and because he had stayed in the UK illegally after his student visa expired in 2003.

Miss Zhou came to Britain as a student in June 2005, while her boyfriend arrived in 2003 and met her in Newcastle after he studied English and accounting in Cardiff.

The couple have been buried together in China. Their families watched the trial with an interpreter through a video link.

Miss Zhou's father, Sanbao Zhou, said he felt "as if the sky had fallen on us" when he heard about his daughter's death.

"We nurtured her for 25 years and now she is suddenly gone. Words alone cannot possibly convey the harm that has been done to our family.

"There is an ancient Chinese saying: 'The most suffering one can go through in one's life consists of losing one's mother when one is still young, losing one's wife in the prime of one's life and losing one's children in one's old age'.

"This is especially true when one's child has been murdered. For us, anger and sadness is mingled together."

Mr Yang's mother, ShuZhen Qu, said a "great deal of harm" had been done to both herself and her husband.

"This person did not just kill two people, he has killed two families. If this had not happened, we expected our son to return to China and the lives of our entire family would have been very different.

"We have now been sentenced to go to hell. Our family will never be able to have any future generations," she said.