A woman accused of killing seven people, including a three-year-old girl, went on trial in eastern China on Monday after 20 years on the run.
Lao Rongzhi, 46, apologised to the victims’ families but denied that her involvement was “intentional”, saying she had been in an abusive relationship and had been forced to take part in the crimes, according to local media reports.
A tearful Lao told Nanchang Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangxi province that she did not want to kill anyone and tried to break up with her boyfriend Fa Ziying many times, but he refused to let her leave. Fa was caught in July 1999 when collecting a ransom at the home of a victim in Anhui province and was executed five months later for murder, kidnapping and robbery.
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“Fa Ziying often beat me, choked me and tortured me. He threatened my family if we broke up … I didn’t want to kill anyone. I just wanted to live,” Lao told the court, according to People’s Daily.
She told the court she had four abortions and her body was often covered in bruises, Red Star News reported.
Lao, who is charged with murder, kidnapping and robbery, apologised to the families of the victims and said she were willing to pay compensation, but she only had 30,000 yuan (US$4,600) in her bank account.
She also apologised to her boyfriend in Xiamen, a city in the southeastern province of Fujian, where she was living when caught in November last year, and said he did not know about her past.
Lao was captured in a shopping mall in Xiamen where she sold watches in November last year after a police database helped uncover her true identity. She had been living under a false name and working odd jobs in nightclubs for the last 20 years.
She had escaped after Fa helped cover her tracks by giving police misleading information after he was arrested.
Lao was a primary school teacher in Jiujiang when she met Fa at a wedding in 1993. Fa was 10 years older and married with a daughter at the time. Lao resigned from her job and started her life on the run with Fa in 1995 when he escaped charges of assault and robbery.
She is accused of luring a businessman named Xiong Qiyi whom she met in a nightclub in Nanchang to a rented flat where he was murdered in 1996. Lao and Fa are then said to have robbed Xiong’s home and murdered his wife and three-year-old daughter when they found them there.
A year later Liang Xiaochun and Liu Suqing, two women who were working in nightclubs in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, were robbed and murdered.
The final two victims were killed in July 1996, when Lao is accused of luring another businessman, named Yin Jianhua, in a nightclub to a flat in Hefei, Anhui province. Yin was locked in a cage and his family contacted for a ransom. A carpenter named Lu Zhongmin was also lured to the flat with the promise of work and murdered in an effort to intimidate Yin.
Fa was caught when he went to Yin’s flat with a pistol to force his wife to pay a ransom. But when she went to get the money, she contacted the police, who arrested Fa after a shoot-out in which he was wounded.
Fa repeatedly changed his story about whether Yin was alive or not, and his body was only found after a neighbour complained about the smell in the flat where he had died. It is not known whether he had been killed or starved to death.
Zhu Dahong, the wife of the murdered carpenter Lu, came to Wuchang on Sunday for the trial after finishing her night shift as a cleaner.
Zhu, then 29, told The Beijing News she had been left to raise three children on her own after her husband’s death and had thought about taking her own life because she could not afford to send them to school. She told the newspaper she had been waiting for 20 years to see Lao stand trial.
“Lu’s mother cried so much that she went blind. The murders changed the destiny of the family. The three children were all very bright but none could finish their school,” Liu Jingjie, a lawyer who represents Zhu, told The Beijing News.
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