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Gao Chengyong: The Notorious Jack the Ripper of China

by Kimberly Lin

Finally, the mystery of the Chinese Jack the Ripper is solved. Now women in Baiyin, China, can breathe a little easier. For more than 28 years, the residents of this city in the Northwestern province of Gansu lived in fear of one of the most notorious serial killers in the world. However, that all ended on August 26, 2016, when the 52-year-old Gao Chengyong, also known as the Chinese Jack the Ripper, was caught.

Chinese Jack the ripper Gao Chengyong

Wanted posters of Gao Chengyong who was arrested after his DNA matched that of the Chinese Jack the Ripper.

Gao Chengyong was working in his Baiyin grocery store when police took him into custody. As reported by London’s BBC News on August 29, 2016, Gao admitted to the ghastly killings of 11 young females that spanned a period of 14 years, from 1988 to 2002. He did not explain why he stopped killing, but during those 14 years, he committed amongst the most gruesome serial murders of all time.

Brief Biography of Gao Chengyong

Gao Chengyong’s arrest was a complete surprise to his family. He has been married to Zhang Qingfeng for 30 years and they have two adult sons. The oldest son was born in 1988, the same year that the gruesome murders began. In a Fox News article, Gao’s acquaintances described him as a quiet man and one son said that Gao suffered bitterly in his youth when he failed to become a pilot for “political reasons.” Both sons finished their education, have jobs, and only visit their father once a year to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Neither son can understand nor explain why their father committed these heinous crimes.

Gao Chengyong grew up in Qingcheng, a town 75 miles from Baiyin. Relatives in Qingcheng saw Gao as a dutiful son who cared for his ailing father in the 1980s. After his father died, Gao moved to Baiyin and rarely visited his hometown. Zhang, Gao’s wife, stated that Gao would occasionally leave her for days at a time. She now fears that those were the times when he committed his crimes.

china's jack the ripper Gao Chengyong

Gao Chengyong, described as a quiet and dutiful husband, father, and son arrested for 11 murders. Credit: unknown.

Gruesome Murders Over 14 Years

Gao’s Chengyong’s first murder occurred on May 26, 1988. The victim was a 23-year-old Baiyin female who was found in her home with 26 wounds in her body. The youngest victim was an 8-year-old girl. A police profile on the crimes indicated that the serial killer was male, aged 33 to 40, who was attracted to young females dressed in red. This Jack the Ripper of China would follow the women home, rape them, slash their throats, and then mutilate their sexual organs. Police found the sixth victim after the serial killer had cut off her breasts, hands, and ears.

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Clearly, this so-called Jack the Ripper of China was a sociopathic killer. It was the resemblance between the savage destruction of the Baiyin victims’ bodies and those of the women killed by London’s infamous Jack the Ripper that led the police to nickname their notorious serial killer the Chinese Jack the Ripper.

Baiyin police were at a loss as to who raped, killed, and mutilated the local women. They collected enough fingerprints and semen from the crime scenes to tie the 11 murders together, but they could not match the DNA evidence to anyone registered as living in Baiyin. And that is exactly how Gao managed to stay free for 28 years. Gao Chengyong had registered in Qingcheng, but he never registered himself in Baiyin. In 2004, the authorities offered a 200,000 yuan reward ($30,000) for information leading to the arrest of the serial killer. Despite the generous offer, no leads ever materialized, and the case went cold.

Evidence That Led Authorities to China’s Jack the Ripper

Evidence emerged early in 2016 that renewed interest in the unsolved serial murders. Police arrested Gao’s uncle for a minor crime in Baiyin and they collected his DNA. The authorities noticed a close resemblance to the killer’s DNA on file and they determined these two men were related. In March, the police took DNA samples from the uncle’s relatives in Baiyin. The DNA of Gao Chengyong was a perfect match to the evidence on file and the police wasted no time in arresting him.

China's jack the ripper Gao Chengyong caught

Gao Chengyong being led by police after arrest. Credit: SCMP.com

In March 2018, Chengyong received the death penalty and lost all of his assets when the government seized his property. His execution took place on January 3, 2019, though the method was undisclosed.

There have been numerous “Jack the Rippers” around the world. Police have caught some of the world’s worst serial murderers, but many of the most prolific serial killers lived their lives without ever facing justice. Fortunately, the advancements in forensic DNA analysis has made it much easier to find them. And now, at least in Baiyin, China, residents can sleep knowing their daughters and wives are that much safer with China’s Jack the Ripper finally behind bars.

Updated August 9, 2019.

Irish Times
South China Morning Post
South China Morning Post
X Live
Click Orlando
New Straits Times
The Independent

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