Anxiang Du guilty of murdering Northamptonshire family

Anxiang Du and the Ding family
Anxiang Du and the Ding family

The man on trial for killing a family-of-four in Northampton has been found guilty of their murders.

Anxiang Du, 54, of 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, 46, Helen Chui, 47, and their children Xing (also known as Nancy), 18, and 12-year-old Alice, on Friday, April 29, 2011.

On Wednesday, November 27, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder.

Outside the court senior investigating officer Det Chief Insp 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 a decade-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.”