Murder in the Hood

Polce and security guards talk to a journalist near the crime scene at Singha Plaza.

Polce and security guards talk to a journalist near the crime scene at Singha Plaza.

Murders in the news are as common as the weather report, and are rarely read with any greater attention. It is not often that they touch your life in some way, even if just remotely.

Unfortunately, such is not the case with Suzhou’s most recent homicide, as it happened only a couple hundred metres from where I sleep, and to someone I’ve (if only peripherally) very likely met.

This past Wednesday morning the bloodied and naked body of a girl in her early 20s was found in her Singha Plaza (Xīn Dū GuǎngChǎng) apartment. Despite sharing the apartment with 7-8 other girls, none of them had heard a thing. The body was found when her roommate (as in shared her room) returned home in the morning.

While the news reports only indicated that she was a cashier at a “Western” restaurant (of which Singha Plaza is a long string of), I had heard from another friend that she worked at La Rose — a decent restaurant Maggie and I frequent regularly.

It wasn’t until yesterday (Saturday) that the killer was caught a few blocks away in the Four Seasons (Sì Jì Jiāyuán) apartment complex. Aparently the police had known since Wednesday that he was hiding out somewhere in the mass of upper-income apartments, and were sitting on the exits. Yesterday, after the owner of a vacant apartment on the 21st floor attempted to enter it and found it locked from the inside, the drama began to unfold.

The apartment owner called the police, who had been waiting for just such notice. With the police now surrounding the building, the guy threatened to jump and save the courts the trouble. After three hours of negotiations, and a giant safety pad being put in the jump zone, the suspect surrendered – butcher knife in hand.

Though I’ve not yet read what the relationship was between the victim and the suspect, reports indicated he used to be head of the security guards for my apartment complex, but left more than a year ago and was most recently working for a restaurant in the same strip of restaurants that the victim worked at (it wasn’t revealed if it was the same restaurant or not).

Now, before this post goes into Googleland and starts creeping up on searches from people looking for info about Suzhou, let me say that Suzhou, and China at large, is one of the safer places a foreigner can live in – and a marked improvement over many of our own countries. Though theft is rife, violent crimes are no higher here than any place else, and arguably lower than many. Being mugged is uncommon, and being anything “at gun point” is almost unheard of.

My point in blogging about this is not to showcase the seedier side of the city, but to simply comment on the creepiness of having something so horrible happen so close to home. All I can really say is how badly I feel for that girl, her family and her friends; and how glad I am that the suspect was caught and is not lurking around my neighbourhood anymore.

[UPDATE 7pm May 10/09] Just a quick update, caught the Suzhou news on this. Looks like the motive, perhaps unsurprisingly, was unrequited love. The guy had written love letters all over the walls inside her apartment building. She apparently had turned him down and suffering humiliation and a loss of face he killed her. What a fucking tragedy. Truly.

10 Responses

  1. When I was a little kid my family and I moved to a nice neighborhood in Orlando. Right after moving in a 20-something year old guy a few houses down murdered his parents (with whom he was living). Lurid stuff for the elementary school kids with whom I had just started hanging out. Good news was that, other than that, there wasn’t another incident for the next 15 or so years that I lived there.

    Still, even now, that house seems a little creepy to me. 🙂

  2. Yeah, that’s literally hitting a little close to home. I usually feel pretty safe down here. There have been a couple of times when someone has objected to my camera but so far those instances have been deflated pretty easily. I never feel “afraid” to walk around down here in Guangxi and I can’t say the same about a lot of cities back home.

  3. Hmmmm, I mentioned to Yukes that there were 2 cop cars in the car park the other day, a bit strange. Yesterday she announced (relayed from her sister who saw the story on Suzhou news TV) that there had been a murder, ooh about 100 metres from this apartment.

    Cashier at La Rose eh ?

    Strange how the killer could hang out in a “mass of {nearby} upper-income apartments”. Rent in 4 Seasons ain’t cheap, must have been sharing big time…. a vacant apartment ?

    Well, one thing’s for sure. If convicted he’ll get the gravestone, the Saddam effect.

    Interesting that the cops had so much intel and were able to corner him on suspicion and arrest so quickly.

    Agreed, Suzhou is a very low crime environment. I feel a lot safer here than in Australia, but you have to be prudent with your belongings in public, as is the case everywhere.

    Had the e-bike battery recently stolen from under the apartment, Mrs. Jamieson’s too, and several others, despite night vision CCTV cameras and patrolling guards. We won’t pay the compound management fee for 6~7 months in retaliation. 500 Kuai for a replacement and a lock on the new battery.

    Pay for security and get fingered. Ummm, NOT this Laowai, won’t roll over and keep paying.


  4. I live in the building several floors from where he was hiding. Wednesday night and Thursday the police in full force – 8 – 10 of them in bullet proof vests inspected my apartment repeatedly. The owner of the vacant unit where he was hiding did not call the police. They escorted the individual upstairs. In all of the buildings within Four Seasons from Wednesday onward there were no less then 6-8 policemen in each building 24 hours a day in the lobby along with residents as well. The police would escort you to your apartment and wait for you to inspect the apartment to see if he was in the apartment, trying to move around. All of the electric utility closets were open so he could not hide in the closets. The police were highly organized, repeatedly checked my unit, were always in strong force including on motorcycles at all 3 gates with back-up cars. The first couple of days there were as many as 75-80 policeman within the complex. Once they knew where he was they shut down the electricity in the apartments and did their thing for 3 hours. I have lived in Suzhou for 3 years and feel safe having lived in New York City.

  5. Hey Phillip. Something didn’t seem right about the description of police just watching the exits – your description makes much more sense. Cheers for the info – sounds like it was a crazy few days for you guys in Four Seasons.

  6. This evening’s local news has a disturbing update: that the girl’s murderer actually raped her corpse after he’d killed her. Clearly more a psychopath than a mere jilted/unrequited lover.

  7. This is really shocking.

    Can anyone give me any further details on this?

    I lived in Suzhou up until February of this year, in Jiacheng Gardens, only a couple of hundred metres from La Rose Cafe.

    I used to eat in La Rose frequently when I first arrived in Suzhou and would know many of the staff who work there, by name.

    Does anyone have the (English) name of the girl who was killed?

  8. Shudder. Ryan & I live in Jia Yi Yuan, about 100~200 meters from the restuarant strip on Jin Ji Hu Lu, and 500 metres from 4 Seasons Resort.

    But we have our own respective stable marital relationships, not likely to get slashed by a competitor.

    I pity the young lady – I’ve witnessed enough premature death in my life, although I didn’t see her.


  9. hi, this is tragic, my condolences

    _ probably not very related
    I was in Suzhou in ’06
    really close to the Pagoda
    with a small group of american students

    there was a man wandering about,
    quietly and menacingly with a sling of cleavers (like 10+) over his apron
    who had followed us (or come in to our turned backs)
    into a nearby noodlebar

    the 6 of us were busy ordering clumsily
    and noticed him one-by-one, and noticed local staring
    he was promptly ousted from the establishment by employees
    no big to-do was made
    this situation just really haunts me

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