Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Investigators stumped by scene of Hualien murders

CONUNDRUM Police can't figure out how five children found dead in the bathroom of their home were killed, or how the killer(s) exited a house that was locked from inside

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Investigators probing the gruesome murder of five children in Hualien were left scratching their heads yesterday over several mysterious aspects of the case.

"We are contacting psychological experts to try to understand the murderers' mental state, which might help us to crack this case," Hualien District Prosecutors' Office spokeswoman Huang Yi-chun (黃怡君) told the media yesterday.

The five children of Liu Chih-chin (劉志勤), 48, and his wife Lin Chen-mi (林真米), 35 were found dead in the bathroom of their Hualien home on Friday night.

The children were found with their hands and legs tied with wire, adhesive tape on their faces and with plastic bags over their heads. The windows and the door of the bathroom were sealed with adhesive tape.

Liu and Lin are missing.

The five deceased include Liu's 18-year-old and 17-year-old sons and 12-year-old daughter, all from Liu's previous marriage, and a nine-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son from his marriage to Lin.

Liu's car was found by police on Saturday parked near the Chian (吉安) Township train station in Hualien County.

Police initially suspected that Liu and Lin murdered their children, then drove to the train station, abandoned their car there and left the township by train.

However, police officer Lin Chien-lung (林建龍), who is in charge of the case, said yesterday that evidence at the murder scene had puzzled investigators.

No exit

First of all, Lin Chien-lung said, the doors of the house had been locked from the inside, with steel bars put across the doors to seal them shut. Since there is iron grating over all of the house's windows and no other apparent ways out, police can't figure out how the murderers left the scene.

"It is the most difficult question to be answered in the case," Lin Chien-lung said.

Second, police cannot figure out how the five children were killed.

They originally suspected that the children were already drugged and unconscious when the perpetrators taped their mouths and covered their heads, since there was no sign of a struggle in the house or on the childrens' bodies.

However, Lin Chien-lung said that a result of an autopsy showed that the five were not drugged or poisoned. The autopsy also indicated that the five might not have been killed on the same day.

Finally, Lin Chien-lung said that police found two cigarette butts at the crime scene, but that DNA tests had shown that the smoker was not Liu, his wife or any of the children -- indicating that people outside the family were likely involved in the murders.

No fingerprints were found in the house or on the corpses, so police believe the murderer or murderers were wearing gloves as they committed the crimes.

Heavy debts

Liu was said to have debts of around NT$3 million (US$91,254), which may have been a factor in the incident, Lin Chien-lung said. Police now suspect the murders may have involved Liu's creditors.

Lin Chien-lung said that Liu ran a tourist photography business in Hualien. Police say that Liu went heavily into debt to expand his business, which led to serious financial difficulties for his family.

Lin Chien-lung said that several of Liu's relatives, neighbors, and friends interviewed by police have said that Liu appeared to have psychological problems.

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