THE man on trial for killing a family-of-four in Northampton has today been found guilty of their murders. Anxiang Du, aged 54, from Witnell Close.
A SENTENCE of life in prison with a minimum term of 40 years was today handed out to Anxiang Du.
At Northampton Crown Court, High Court Judge Mr Justice Julian Flaux, said Du must serve a minimum of 40 years, less the number of days spent on remand, before he is eligible for parole.
Du, aged 54, from Witnell Close, Coventry had pleaded guilty to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility or loss of control.
The prosecution rejected this and he stood trial for two weeks at Northampton Crown Court, for the murder of Jifeng Ding, aged 46, Helen Chui, aged 47, and their children Xing (also known as Nancy), aged 18, and 12-year-old Alice, on Friday, 29 April 2011.
This lunchtime the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder. Mr Justice Julian Flaux adjourned for sentencing tomorrow afternoon.
Outside the court, senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Davies, read out a statement: “Today we have seen justice done. This was a heinous crime, committed by a man who knew what he was doing and went with a plan to kill an entire family in cold blood.
“The outcome today is a welcome relief for the family and friends of the Dings, who can now rest in the knowledge that the man responsible for the murders will likely face the rest of his life in prison.
“While the result today has been successful, we remain sorrowful and cannot lose sight of the fact that a family, including two very talented young girls had their lives tragically taken away from them.
“I would like to praise and thank Jeff and Helen’s families in China and the US, and the friends of the family in England, for their faith and support throughout the inquiry.
“I would like to thank the media for their support in reporting this case and keeping the public informed throughout the investigation and trial.
“I would also like to praise the investigation team for their hard work, dedication and commitment to ensure Anxiang Du would face justice for the murders of Jeff, Helen, Nancy and Alice.”
During the trial the jury heard evidence of adecade-long bitter business dispute between the Du and Ding families.
The business relationship started in January 1999 when they opened a herbal medicine shop together. Problems arose in the partnership and Mr Du and his wife Mrs Chen were removed from the business, sparking the ten-year dispute between the families.
Evidence was heard of how, initially, the Dus had won a court judgement in their favour. Later on, helped by a friend, Mr Paul Delaney, the Dings had won the legal battle and the Dus were ultimately left with a bill of £88,000.
The day before the Dings were killed, Mr Delaney’s solicitor hand delivered an injunction, at 10pm, to the Du’s home address, freezing his assets.
The following day Du travelled to Pioneer Close, Wootton, Northampton, armed with a knife and bringing with him his passport.
Prosecuting counsel, William Harbage QC, said during the trial: “Du made a plan and carried it out with ruthless efficiency. Having massacred the Ding family, he stole their car and went looking for Paul Delaney. Fortunately for Mr Delaney, Du did not find him.”
Du then travelled to London. Using his passport, he bought a one-way ticket, paying £61 cash, from Victoria station to Paris. From Paris he travelled to Spain and then took a ferry from Algeciras to Tangiers in Morocco, where he was later arrested.
The jury were played a distressing 20-second 999 call that was made by Xing using Alice’s mobile at 3.32pm, from one of the bedrooms where she and her sister were later found. The call is believed to have been moments before they were murdered.
Jifeng and Helen died in the kitchen. The family had all suffered multiple stab wounds.
During the trial Professor Nigel Eastman, defence expert who interviewed Du, told the jury that he believed Du had been suffering from a ‘severe depressive illness’ bought about by the prolonged civil dispute.
Professor Eastman told the court, “He is a non-violent man, so we have to ask the question, why did this non-violent man actually do it? In my view, but for the illness, these horrendous killings wouldn’t have happened.”
This opinion was contradicted by Dr Philip Joseph, who was called by the prosecution and also interviewed Du.
He said it was, “very unusual for someone who has killed on the spur of the moment to a) go and look for someone else to kill and b) make a detailed plan of how to escape.”
Dr Joseph’s opinion was he suffered depression of “no more than moderate severity’ and that what he did before and after the killings was not consistent with a severe depressive illness.
When questioned about the knife he had bought to the house with him, Du said that he had originally bought the knife several months earlier in order to kill himself but hadn’t used it.
When questioned about taking the knife with him, Du responded “I was thinking I wanted to get my money back.”
He was also asked about his passport, which he claimed was always in his jacket pocket because he did not have any other form of identity.
The jury also heard evidence that Du told Dr Joseph that he had made a call from Morocco, to the shop he owned, because he wanted to hear his wife’s voice.
After hearing over two weeks of evidence, the jury took three hours to return a verdict of guilty.
The judge recognised the dignity with which the family of the Dings had conducted themselves throughout the trial and that nothing he could say would assuage them of the pain they will have felt.
The judge also thanked the jury, telling them, “In recognition, I will exempt you from jury service for the next ten years.”
Statement released by friends and neighbours of the Ding family, from Pioneer Close
“It’s been over two and a half years since Jeff, Helen, Xing and Alice were stolen from this world, justice has finally been served. Today the jury found Anxiang Du guilty.
“Whilst we are all relieved that the outcome has been decided, this is a wrong which cannot be made right. They cannot be bought back to life.
“The impact of the tragedy and the anguish caused has been felt severely by the family and friends, in the community where they lived, the schools they attended and the places where they worked.
“They were kind, smiling people with a sense of fun and amazing talents academically and musically. They had a zest for making the most of opportunities and had so much talent and enthusiasm for life, coupled with humility about their own achievements. They were a close knit family and Helen and Jeff were so proud of Xing and Alice, and supportive of their friends, neighbours and their children.
“Jeff was quiet, smiling and friendly and always ready to chat when you saw him. He was a lecturer in chemistry at Manchester University. One of his students wrote, “Dr Ding was a polite person, amazing lecturer and an overall funny person …..we have our exam on Thursday, we all are going to try our very best to get high marks to reflect your amazing teaching Dr Ding!”
“Helen led a busy life juggling work and home life, she had a wonderfully positive and optimistic attitude to life. As friends, we also knew that she was generous and fair minded and would always see the best in people.
“Helen taught Mandarin in local businesses and at the local school where Alice also attended, and was respected and valued by her colleagues and students.
“Two of her students, said: “There are many things about you that we will miss, your enthusiasm and passion for teaching that made us want to continue to learn the language and that you were the kindest person that we have ever met. Thank you for introducing us to the Chinese culture and making the lessons so enjoyable …..we hope that we have made you proud and that you know you will be sorely missed by us all. We’ll never forget you. Xie Xie for everything.”
“Both the girls were talented violinists. Xing was co-principal of the county youth orchestra and Alice, leader of the junior county youth orchestra. This was as well as their academic accomplishments and many other interests. Alice had also won many Irish dance trophies.
“Xing would by now have been in her third year of studying medicine at Nottingham University, something she had been so excited about. With her blend of compassion and academic ability she would have made a superb doctor. One of her friends wrote: “When you played violin at concerts and in assemblies, I was completely in awe. You had such an amazing talent. Always, always so beautiful and kind….and somehow on top of everything, you always found time to smile.“
“Alice would by now have been in year ten at school. She was bright and lively. She was an anti bullying mentor at school where she had many friends and a promising school life and career ahead of her.
“One of her friends wrote: “The Alice I shared a music stand with was funny, talented, beautiful and rather mischievous. I and the other musicians at school will miss her terribly.”
“Jeff, Helen, Xing and Alice were all held in high regard and respected by their friends and our community and we will always remember them for the joy they brought us.”