Ten years on from Anxiang Du murdering Northampton family in a crime that shocked the community

Jeff Ding, wife Helen and two young daughters were brutally murdered on Royal Wedding day in 2011

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 8:06 am
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 9:56 am

Ten years ago today Anxiang Du sparked a manhunt which started in a Northampton cul-de-sac and spread worldwide following one of the town’s most notorious and brutal murders.

Du murdered Jifeng ‘Jeff’ Ding, his wife Helen and their two daughters Xing — also known as Nancy — aged 18 and 12-year-old Alice during a horrific attack at their home on Royal Wedding day in 2011.

He stabbed university lecturer Jeff 23 times, Helen 13 times, Xing 11 times and Alice four.

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Du stabbed Jeff Ding, his wife Helen and daughters Nancy and Alice a total of 51 times. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

The story of a business deal gone wrong, a bungled 999 call and seven-month manhunt was finally told during Du’s trial at Northampton Crown Court more than two years later...

Du ran a Chinese herbal remedy shop in Birmingham in business with the Dings, who moved to the UK in the late 1990s But a ten-year legal dispute after the partnership failed threatened to wipe him out financially.

He faced a legal bill of around £88,000 after losing his final appeals and the day before the grisly murders had been served with a court order preventing him from disposing of his assets.

At 10:44am on April 29, Anxiang Du caught a train to his Chinese herbal medicine shop in Birmingham. But he stayed for only ten minutes, leaving his wife a farewell note before picking up a kitchen knife and catching another train to Northampton.

Headlines from the Chronicle & Echo in the days following the grisly discovery in Pioneer Close

From Northampton town centre, Du travelled by bus to Wootton and then stopped to ask a passer-by in the street for directions to Pioneer Close, arriving there at around 1:35pm.

Two hours later Du set about murdering Jeff Ding, his wife Helen, who worked in a local school, and their two daughters Xing — also known as Nancy — aged 18 and 12-year-old Alice.

Some of the eight women and four men in the jury wept during the trial in 2013 as they heard a harrowing recording of Nancy Ding's 999 call on her sister Alice's mobile phone at 3.32pm, during which the screams of both girls could be heard .

But Northamptonshire Police sent officers to a different address in Collingtree Park, closing the incident when nothing was found there.

Anxiang Du killed the Ding family in their home on April 29, 2011

An independent inquiry later found the call was "abandoned" by Xing before reaching the police to ask for their help. A British Telecom operator alerted police to the call, giving the mobile number and approximate location.

But the address was then incorrectly identified as Collingtree Park and disseminated by a police call handler, which led to "crucial minutes" of police time being wasted as officers went to the wrong address.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said not enough had been done to find the correct location.

While the rest of the country celebrated the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Du escaped by stealing money and the family’s Vauxhall Corsa and heading to London — where the car was found dumped in St John's Wood 11 days later with nine parking tickets on its windscreen.

Du arrived at Northampton train station (left) before catching a bus to Wootton — asking the driver for directions as he got off

The following day, April 30, Du bought a one-way coach ticket to Paris using his own passport.

Sometime that day, his wife Can Chen reported him missing. On May 1, police called at the Ding's house at 8am looking for Du but left when nobody answered the door.

The Dings' bodies were discovered later that day after a concerned neighbour went to check on the family after not seeing them over the Bank Holiday and saw a body on the kitchen floor through a window.

The first officer on the scene described in court how he had also seen a body on the floor.

A second officer found the two girls’ bodies in an upstairs bedroom.

Du, meanwhile, had travelled through France and Spain, and took a ferry from Algeciras to Tangier in Morocco.

Locals left flowers outside the Dings' house while the police investigation continued

He travelled onwards to Oujda near the border with Algeria, where he was arrested as a suspected illegal immigrant only for Moroccan police to release him because they could not determine his identity and were unaware he was wanted in the UK.

Northamptonshire Police offered a £25,000 reward for help finding Du, put out alerts in 180 countries, questioned 2,000 people, seized 5,000 hours of CCTV footage was seized from around the UK and investigated more than 380 suspect sightings.

But Du stayed in Morocco for as further 14 months — living in a half-built block of flats, sleeping on a makeshift bed and cooking food on a small gas stove — until Northamptonshire Police announced they believed he was in that country.

A photograph of Du was printed in a local newspaper and a fellow construction worker recognised him. He was arrested on July 7, 2012.

Officers made a formal application for extradition with the Home Office, although there was no formal extradition arrangement with Morocco, and he arrived at Heathrow Airport on February 20.

Northamptonshire Police said the extradition had been approved by the Moroccan Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the Home Office.

Du denied murder, claiming all four killings were manslaughter due to loss of control or diminished responsibility. But he was found guilty at Northampton Crown Court in November 2013 and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 40 years — by which time he will be 94.

The judge at Northampton Crown Court described the killings as “savage butchery” carried out “with ruthless efficiency”.

Mr Justice Flaux added: “These were cold‐blooded murders which in my judgment were premeditated and were considered acts of revenge in which you wiped out the entire family of the couple whom you considered had ruined you financially in the acrimonious civil litigation in which you and they had been engaged for more than seven years.”

“I am quite satisfied it was that hatred and anger and the desire for revenge they generated that motivated you to act as you did on 29 April 2011, not the moderate depression you were suffering which neither caused nor contributed to your carrying out of these killings.

“By the time you left the shop in Birmingham that morning at the latest, you had already formulated a plan to go to Northampton to kill the Ding family with the knife and then to flee the jurisdiction.”

Jeff Ding had been Du's business partner but their relationship soured