Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - Page 1 News List

Man claims to have killed Peng Wan-ru

MURDER CASE A taxi driver was found dead with a suicide note claiming he killed a rising star in the DPP three years ago. Police, however, have said the story is improbable


Peng Wan-ru's (彭婉如) name has become almost synonymous with the women's rights movement in Taiwan since her murder nearly three years ago. Yesterday, it jumped back into headlines across the nation as a taxi driver was found dead in his car with a suicide note claiming he had been Peng's killer.

Unfortunately, blood and fingerprint tests which came back later in the day forced police to rule out the possibility that the dead man was indeed responsible for Peng's murder.

Peng, then the director of the DPP's women's affairs department, disappeared after getting into a taxi to attend a meeting the night before a DPP party convention in Kaohsiung on Nov. 30, 1996. Her body was found three days later outside an abandoned warehouse in Kaohsiung, naked and with more than 30 stab wounds. According to reports, she had been raped.

Police have never given up hope of catching her killer, which they still to this day believe was the taxi driver that picked Peng up that fateful night. Their investigation, however, has seen little progress in the past three years, resulting in scathing public criticism against perceived inefficiency. Several suspects in police custody have confessed to Peng's murder. All were dismissed after police found testimony or evidence inconsistent with the facts of the murder.

Yesterday morning, around 6am, investigators thought they had made a breakthrough after police reported finding the body of a man who had apparently asphyxiated himself inside his taxi in Taipei County's Shihting (石碇) township.

A plastic tube from the car's exhaust pipe was running into the cab, where Chen Tsai-fu (程財福), 44, from Keelung, lay dead. Next to him was a note, saying, "I apologize about Peng Wan-ru."

"Please forgive me," the note added. "Dear wife -- I'm sorry, please bury my body."

After discovering the note, a joint task force was formed by police units from Kaohsiung and Taipei to look into the link with Peng's death. However, it was confirmed later in the day that results of tests on Chen's blood and fingerprints did not match those left by Peng's killer at the scene of the murder.

Police have not completely ruled out a link between Chen and the Peng murder and investigations are continuing.

Peng's 1996 murder came at a sensitive time for the government, as it took place soon after another high-profile killing -- the Nov. 21 assassination of former Taoyuan County Commissioner Liu Pang-yu (劉邦友) and seven others at his home -- and was followed by the kidnap-murder of a TV celebrity's daughter, Pai Hsiao-yen (白曉燕), in April 1997. Taken as a string of events, public outrage grew against a perceived deterioration in social order, which ultimately led to a protest march through the streets of Taipei on May 4, 1997, by nearly 100,000 people.

Peng's murder also pushed on to the front burner of public opinion a number of stalled bills in the legislature relating to women's safety, which have since been passed. Her husband, Hung Wan-sheng (洪萬生), founded the Peng Wan-ru Foundation, which became a major force in the campaign to promote women's rights.

Peng, who had been dedicated to women's issues and vigorously advocated women's political participation, had gone to Kaohsiung on Nov. 30 to persuade DPP representatives to adopt a party platform that would ensure it reserves a quarter of its candidates' slots in popular elections for women.

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