A top public security official admitted
yesterday that police failures might have prolonged a serial murder spree that
left six boys dead in northern China.
Authorities have charged a 33-year-old man with the killings, wrapping up a
widely criticized investigation.
Wu Heping, spokesman for China's Ministry of Public Security, acknowledged
yesterday that police mistakes before and during the investigation might have
added to the toll.
"Sadly, six kids may have died because of our failings," Wu said.
The suspect, Gong Runbo,
who served eight years for a previous rape conviction, allegedly killed the
children after luring them to his rented apartment in Jiamusi, Heilongjiang
Province. Some of the boys were sexually assaulted, authorities said.
Gong was arrested on February 28, when a boy escaped from the apartment and
called police. He was captured in a nearby Internet cafe.
Police officers have been criticized for their slow response to reports of
missing children, and the victims' families have called for compensation.
"Police at each level should learn from this case by paying more attention to
reports of missing kids and responding faster in similar investigations," Wu
He said the episode spotlighted failings at many levels.
Schools need to react more quickly when children are absent without
explanation, Wu said. Corrections authorities need to supervise former convicts
"And despite the government's ban on minors in Internet bars, Gong was taking
these kids in and out of an Internet cafe without being confronted or reported
to the police," Wu said.
He said local police had taken "serious action" to remedy their failings, and
the provincial police chief ordered intensive inspections of rented houses,
migrant populations and cases of missing people.
A review of school security was also under way, Wu said.
Some parents told reporters they fear dozens of children may have been slain
over the years.
Gong's rented house
where six boys were murdered. [Huashaphoto]
Police said a search of Gong's rented home uncovered the remains of Wu
Shutian, 10, Ma Qianli, 10, Bai Jinlong, 15, and Jiang Fuyuan, 12. The bodies
were reportedly lying on Gong's bed and were badly decomposed.
Officers also discovered what appeared to be human bones. At least 28 pairs
of children's shoes were found at Gong's home, according to parents who were
taken there by officers to identify the victims' belongings.
Police wouldn't confirm those reports, however, and yesterday said DNA tests
on clothing found at the home indicated there were no more than six victims.
Police began to receive reports about the missing children in early 2005, but
they never issued a public warning. The local police bureau said it didn't want
to create a panic by releasing information before it cracked the case.