Tue, Jul 20, 2004 - Page 5 News List

S Korea nabs serial killer

REUTERS , SEOUL

Yoo Young-chul, center, a 33-year-old former convict wearing a yellow raincoat and a face mask, is escorted by police in Seoul.

PHOTO: AFP

A 34-year-old South Korean man suspected of being the country's worst serial killer may have murdered at least 23 people, but the suspect was unsure himself of the number because there were "too many," police said.

The man was suspected of at least 19 murders committed in less than a year, many of the bodies possibly buried in shallow graves near a temple, Seoul police chief Huh Joon-young told reporters on Sunday.

The victims were mainly women, but also included elderly people from wealthy districts of the capital.

The suspect, Yoo Young-chul, was arrested late last week and had confessed to the crime spree, apparently motivated by a hatred for women and the rich, the police chief said.

Widening their investigation on Monday, police drove Yoo to the western port city of Inchon in connection with their search for the murderer of a man in April.

There was a possibility that Yoo was also involved in the murders of three young women in another part of Seoul, police said. Two women were injured but survived.

"He says he did everything when asked about the murder incidents," a Seoul police officer said by telephone.

"He said he'll take every responsibility," the officer said.

Yoo appeared confused and unsure of the exact number of deaths, telling police there were "too many," he said.

South Korea has a low rate of violent crime, and multiple killings in the past have been mostly committed by organized criminals against wealthy victims.

Yoo, released from prison last September after serving time for robbery and rape, is suspected of killing an elderly college professor and his wife in the same month.

The couple, along with other elderly victims, were killed with a hammer in their homes, police said. In one instance the victim's home was set on fire.

After his girlfriend turned down a marriage proposal early this year, the suspect was believed to have then shifted focus to target women working as masseuses, who frequently offer sex services in South Korea, police said.

He is suspected of carrying out attacks on women between March and July, police said.

Investigators unearthed the bodies of 11 women buried in shallow graves on Sunday near a temple in northern Seoul, close to several major universities and the studio flat Yoo rented.

YTN Television showed footage on Sunday of investigators unearthing several plastic bags apparently containing body parts. The suspect stood by watching.

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