Death penalty for former top Chinese student who killed his mother to ‘save her’

·3-min read

A court in southeast China sentenced a former top student to death on Thursday after the man was convicted of murdering his mother to “help her”.

Wu Xieyu, 26, killed his mother in 2015 by smashing her head with a dumbbell as she bent over to change her shoes, then tricked his relatives out of over 1.4 million yuan (US$216,000) and went on the run for three years before getting caught.

Wu was a student at Peking University, one of China’s most prestigious schools, at the time of the crime. The case grabbed the attention of the Chinese public, in part because the man had been a model student for most of his life.

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A picture of Wu Xieyu smiling and giving somebody the “bunny ears”. Photo: Handout
A picture of Wu Xieyu smiling and giving somebody the “bunny ears”. Photo: Handout

The court said he showed “an extremely high degree of malice” because he had plotted the murder for a long time and used a cruel method, according to the verdict published by the Fuzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court.

Police said Wu began plotting the murder months before the crime, and had bought knives, meat cleavers, waterproof cloth and a scalpel. He said he killed her on July 10 because the numbers were the reverse of his own birthday, October 7.

After the murder, Wu said he wrapped the body in 75 layers of bedsheets and plastic film and used a deodoriser to cover up the smell of the decomposing body, which was only discovered by police seven months later.

He said he killed his mother out of “love” to end her grief after his father had died of cancer in 2010. In earlier court hearings, Wu said he thought his mother was one of the best people he knew.

Wu’s crime shocked China in part because he had seemed like the ideal student. Photo: Handout
Wu’s crime shocked China in part because he had seemed like the ideal student. Photo: Handout

Pessimistic and weary of life, Wu had suicidal thoughts and believed his mother’s life “had no meaning” after his father’s death.

Mo Nianqing, a friend of Wu’s father who attended the first hearing in December, said that, “Wu explained that his intent was not to kill her, but to save her, because he loved her.”

Mo added that Wu said, “I did not want mum to live such a miserable life.”

Wu also admitted to an original plan to commit suicide after the crime, but said that idea became “so scary, so scary”.

Police seized Wu in April 2019 at an airport in Chongqing. While he was on the run, the man bought about a dozen fake identification cards and survived on the 1.4 million yuan he “borrowed” from his relatives.

Wu convinced his family to loan him the money with a fake story that his mother was accompanying him while he studied abroad.

In the hopes of receiving a lighter punishment, Wu gave a very detailed confession and his relatives also wrote the court a letter of forgiveness. But the judge disagreed that those actions were enough to avoid the death penalty.

Neither Wu nor his lawyers have said whether they will appeal the sentence.

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