Banker turns himself in after eight years in wild

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The Independent Online

A Chinese banker spent eight cold, hungry, exhausting years on the run, living in tunnels in the forest and foraging for food as he hid from police after he was accused of stealing 30 million yuan (£2.94m).

But, earlier this month, Chen Jianxue walked into a police station and gave himself up, complaining that he had lived like a wild man and could not sleep properly. "It feels so good," he told local media earlier this week, after what he described as his first decent night's sleep in years. "I didn't know if I was a human or a ghost."

Mr Chen, the former vice-director of China Agricultural Bank at Lingao, in Hainan province, was on the Most Wanted list after an inquiry into corruption at the bank in 2003 revealed that 34 staff were involved. He fled to a mountainous forest near his childhood home, digging three tunnels to help him evade police.

In 2004, the 42-year-old briefly returned home and began secretly living with his wife, but was forced to flee once again when he was recognised. She later spent three years in jail for helping to conceal him.

The following year, police offered a 100,000 yuan reward for any information on his whereabouts, but despite numerous manhunts police were unable to find him.

"I jumped from the mountain into the river, hid in the caves by the river, with big leaves covering my face," he said. "Some of the police officers were carrying guns, some had batons, others approached slowly with police dogs. I could see it all clearly, scared to death."

Mr Chen – who is now in custody awaiting trial – foraged for sweet potatoes and drank water from rivers and streams. He was wracked by insomnia and the fear of discovery, eventually reaching such levels of despair he said that if he had had a gun, he would have ended it all.