The Psychological File of a Mass Murderer
(Southern Weekend) The Psychological File of "Crazed Killer" Qiu Xinghua (邱兴华). By Chai Huiqun and Shen Ying. August 23, 2006.
On July 16, 2006, in Pingliang town, Hanying county, Ankang city, Shaanxi province, in a Taoist temple at the top of a faraway mountain more than 2,000 meters above sea level -- the Iron Tile Temple -- there occurred a horrible murder case that shocked the nation. A total of nine males and one female were brutally murdered in the middle of the night, the oldest being 62 and the youngest being 12.
After the murders, the Ministry of Public Security issued a Category A warrant on July 26 and offered 50,000 RMB across the nation for information that lead to the arrest of suspect Qiu Xinghua. The Ankang city police gathered several hundred police officers to conduct large-scale searches in the local area. On the night of August 19, Qiu Xinghua returned to his home in the darkness but he was arrested by the waiting police.
What kind of person is this scary "crazed murderer"? Our newspaper reporters went to Ankang and were able to visit the scene of the arrest in the first instant as well as conduct a face-to-face interview with Qiu Xinghua with the cooperation of the police. Our reporters also interviewed the police, the Qiu family members and the neighbors in great detail in order to figure out how a 47-year-old farmer could become an "demon" when the evil in this heart "took over" his mind.
On the evening of August 19, after being hunted by several hundred police officers from Ankang, the wearied murder suspect Qiu Xinghua sneaked back to his home in Wusi village, Daheba town, Fuping county. He was arrested by four police officers who have been stationed there for 22 days already.
So this bloody murder case which shocked so many people finally reach curtain-closing. Yet, including the police, everybody wants to solve the mystery: Why did an almost 50-year-old farmer commit such a heinous crime?
Qiu Xinghua's reply was just as surprising. In the detention center, Qiu told that police that the reason why he cruelly killed 10 people that night was because the Iron Tile Temple director "touched his wife once."
He began by saying that he killed because he did not like the "manners" of the Taoist priests and therefore he acted on behalf of justice just like the heroes of the nove, The Water Margin. The temple director Xiong Wancheng was the leader who ought to be held responsible for the actions of the Taoist priests.
Then he said that the real reason was that Xiong Wancheng "insulted" his wife. He admitted that he has no proof, but he was firmly convinced that this wass true. Therefore, he killed --
Even if he had to die ten thousand times over, he had to kill Xiong. Similarly, he hated his "shameless" wife and he said that he planned to return home and kill her as well. Then he said that "there was no need" to kill his wife, because she is the mother of his son after all.
He said that he wanted to kill his wife's brothers, because they "took advantage" of him. He said that he should go home to kill them first and then he would drown himself in the river or kill himself at his father's grave. Then he said that he wanted to find "prostitutes" and kill them after screwing them, one after another. When he told the reporter this, he was grinding his teeth as if he hated these people as much as he hated Xiong Wancheng.
He insisted that he is unrepentant, except that he is sorry for his son whom he said is his. "So the daughter is no yours?" He said that he did not want to answer the question.
Since his arrest, this principal character in the crime that shocked the entire society has been using these almost absurd logical explanations to explain his motives. For him, these incredible explanations were natural.
(According to the first police officer who arrived at the Iron Tile Temple on July 16, the ten victims all suffered fatal wounds on their heads due to an axe or similar instrument. The sight was unbearable.
Afterwards, the police quickly identified Qiu Xinghua as a suspect. Qiu is a superstitious person who seeks divinations, and he had conflicts many times with the temple administrators. Prior to the incident, he has said that he wanted revenge. Both the police and Qiu's wife confirmed this.)
The last time that Qiu Xinghua's elder brother Qiu Xingfu met him was in March of this year.
Qiu Xinghua came to borrow money, but Qiu Xingfu could only come up with 50 RMB. Qiu Xinghua was obviously upset, "because he left without finishing his bottle of beer."
Although they have the same mother, Qiu Xingfu and Qiu Xinghua are temperamentally different. The former is described by villagers as "honest and kind" while the latter is "superficial and empty."
Their hometown is Hejialiang, Yixin village, Houliu town, Shiquan county, Shaanxi province. This is a village with only eight households. During the land reform period, Qiu Xingfu's father settled here and was given a house. Of the Hejialiang households, five of them have last name He and the Qiu family is the only one with that name. When Qiu Xingfu was nine years old, his father passed away. His mother had mental problems as long as he can remember -- she got into a fit for no apparent reason and then she talked to herself for two or three hours. It was like that almost every day.
"Bad temper. Do not provoke." That was Qiu Xingfu's basic summary of his younger brother's personality. The first time he encountered that was when Qiu Xinghua was twenty years old. At the time, it was past 10 o'clock in the morning but Qiu Xinghua was still sleeping in bed. So Qiu Xingfu was mad and hit him once. "I did not imagine that he would get so angry that he picked up a hoe and tried to attack me."
But Qiu Xingfu admitted that under most circumstances (especially in front of outsiders), Qiu Xinghua would not show his anger. Even if he was bullied, he was only mad inside but he wouldn't show it. There was one exception. That time, a village girl went to his home and her brother came and began to hit Qiu Xinghua. At first, Qiu Xinghua did not resist but when the beating got tough, he exploded. "I had to hold him back by force because I was afraid that he would kill someone," said Qiu Xingfu.
Qiu Xinghua likes to read novels and compares himself with the famous general Han Xin who allowed himself to be humiliated. His frequent saying was: "I'm not afraid of dying at 36 (which is the age when Han Xin died); I'm only afraid of dying unknown." (During the interview, Qiu Xinghua repeated that phrase).
Since he had "no gainful employment," Qiu Xinghua is usually the suspect whenever some incident takes place locally. In Qiu Xingfu's memory, Qiu Xinghua had gone to "jail" (this should be administrative detention) four times. The earliest incident was in the early 1980's when the wire for the village public announcement system fell down for some reason and Qiu Xinghua took it home. For this, he was detained for 15 days.
Qiu Xinghua was also arrested three times for "smuggling gold," "trafficking in women trade" and "stealing railroad equipment." But these crimes were later shown not to have been committed by him. Therefore, at the Hanyin county detention center, Qiu Xinghua only mentioned the case of the broadcast wire when asked about his prior record.
In Qiu Xinghua's eyes, there was only one crime during his 47 years. Of course, this is not counting the murder of 10 people in this case.
(On the afternoon of August 2, Qiu Xinghua was hiding in the mountain forests and he was discovered by a local villager. The Ankang police gathered more than 200 police officers to surround the mountain and search for him. They discover several hiding spots along with some abandoned belongings.)
Although he was poor and had "no gainful employment," Qiu Xinghua had an interesting path to marriage because he used the "weapon of the law" to achieve a resounding victory.
In the secluded Hejialiang, Qiu Xinghua claims to have fallen in love eleven times and he had eyes for the He family girl He Ranfeng. But this idea was obviously opposed by the He family. Therefore, the two young people chose to elope.
He Ranfeng's parents had only two daughters and no son. Through their pleas, the He family sent out four people including He Rangao and He Ranfu to find the couple and then bring them back to Hejialiang.
In recalling the situation back then, He Ranfu said: "We took him down to the detention center for the night to make sure that he received a good beating." By coincidence, even though the detention center director was not a member of the He family, his last name also happened to be He.
Meanwhile He Ranfeng was locked up in the He family house. But the beaten Qiu Xinghua did not give up. He got someone to write a "complaint," slipped it through the window so that He Ranfeng could apply her palm print and then he sued his future father-in-law in court.
Finally, the town court and the law enforcement agency stepped in. The He family was criticized for "interfering with the freedom of marriage." He Ranfeng was let out after being locked up for nine days, and she became married to Qiu Xinghua.
He Ranfeng still does not understand why she would pick Qiu Xinghua. She slowly recalled that Qiu Xinghua had a quick mind, he can talk and he got many village girls to go over to his house.
After this incident, a village busybody summarized this as: Four guys named He could not defeat one guy named Qiu. At the Hanying detention center, when our reporter brought this matter up with Qiu Xinghua, his eyes lit up and he could not stop talk about it, as if this was the greatest accomplishment of his life.
But thereafter, although they lived in the same courtyard, the two families never crossed each other's threshold. The He family acted as if they never had a girl named He Ranfeng.
One time, Qiu Xinghua offended the He family for some reason and several members of the He family came over. Seeing that Qiu Xinghua was "misbehaving," He Ranfu grabbed a chicken and cut off its head with a knife -- meaning that if Qiu Xinghua kept it up, he was going to wind up just like the chicken. Then He Ranfu gave the chicken to the shocked He Ranfeng to cook for the He family people to eat.
Undoubtedly, this was a huge humiliation for Qiu Xinghua, but he chose to exercise restraint. Yet, at the Iron Tile Temple, Qiu Xinghua killed a chicken and used its blood to write on the paper box: "Ancient emperors are not promiscuous; violators will be killed; the sages did not allow adulterers and adulteresses ..."
Qiu Xinghua wanted to have a son. After having two daughters, he finally got a son for which he was fined 5,000 RMB for exceeding the family planning quota. Since the Qiu family had no money, it remained as a debt. When the family moved in 1998, that fine was still unpaid.
The son is Qiu Xinghua's greatest hope and also his greatest concern after his arrest. "I hope that he can study well and become a success."
(According to deputy director Li of the Hanyin public security bureau, the support logistics could not keep up with the searchers. Thus, the 200 plus searchers were given only one bottle of water, one bun and a pack of pickled mustard. In the roughest moment, they did not even have drinking water. The special case squad even mobilized the masses to join this unprecedented search in Ankang city)
The family planning fine and the hostile He family finally caused Qiu Xinghua to move. In 1998, Qiu Xinghua left Hejialiang, where he had lived for 39 years, to begin a new life.
Between leaving Hejialiang and now, Qiu Xinghua moved six times. There were different reasons, but the outcome was always the same: the more they move, the poorer they got. He Ranfeng admitted that ever since leaving Hejialiang, the children's tuition fees were almost never paid on time.
According to Qiu Xinghua himself, they moved so often because the neighbors were bad. The reporters found out that the neighbors at several of the places did not really accept the outsider Qiu family. On the last move, the landlord showed up to ask for a 60 RMB back rent. He made Qiu Xinghua promise to pay by a certain date and he raised his voice deliberately. The sensitive Qiu Xinghua was very angry, but he still borrowed money from someone to pay up before the due date.
After leaving Hejialiang, Qiu Xinghua worked in at least ten types of jobs. The only one that yielded a steady income was fishing. According to He Ranfeng, he can catch 40 kilograms of fish a day and he make 100 RMB in two days. But because they had to pay rent, buy food and pay tuition fees for three children, the family was not well-off.
Even fishing did not last long. In 2002, there was a flood in Hanjiang and it was impossible to cast fish nets anymore. Therefore, it was necessary to find some other opportunity. Afterwards, Qiu Xinghua worked in construction, breed animals, home repairs, etc, but he never made good money.
Qiu Xinghua's hardship made a deep impression on his elder brother Qiu Xingfu. On the day before Chinese New Year's Eve, Qiu Xingfu brought more than 150 RMB of stuff to visit his younger brother. By 11pm that night, his sister-in-law had still not made dinner. Finally, he had to bring it up himself: "Can you just cook the stuff that I brought over?" Only then He Ranfeng started to cook.
From the second half of last year, He Ranfeng began to sense that something was strange about Qiu Xinghua. He seemed distracted and edgy. He was angry for no apparent reason and he complained that He Ranfeng looked down on him.
During the second half of last year, Qiu Xinghua got a contract for a construction project. Due to an accident, he had to pay a compensation of 4,000 RMB to an injured worker and this meant that he had almost no income for the year. Qiu Xinghua's mood then hit the bottom. He would just sit and smoke by himself all night.
The oddness of Qiu Xinghua's behavior began to increase. He started to have a strange idea: the two daughters were not his, because they walk differently from him.
Little things became the cause of quarreling between the couple. Usually Qiu Xinghua started it first, but when He Ranfeng fought back, he usually fled. The children were usually on their mother's side and they rarely felt that their father was right in these quarrels. After the fight, Qiu Xinghua usually reflected and apologized to his family. But he seemed unable to control himself. Soon after, a similar incident would happen again.
"Dad changed," said the elder daughter Yingying.
(Early morning on August 9, more than 200 public security officers and armed police officers of the "7/16 Hanyin Murders" case squad set out from the suspect's home in Yixin village, Houliu town, Shiquan county and began the second large-scale search in the mountain forests.)
Prior to June 18, 2006, the Iron Tile Temple had no connection with Qiu Xinghua. This Taoist temple is at the top of a 2,000 meter plus high mountain. It takes more than four hours to walk from the bottom of the mountain to the top, and that was a very tough trip for the police officers and the reporters.
Why did Qiu Xinghua go to the Iron Tile Temple? On the third contact, He Ranfeng finally said that the real reason why her husband Qiu Xinghua got her to go to the temple with him was because he suspected that the two daughters were not his.
On April 24, Qiu Xinghua suddenly returned home after having been away working for two months. He said that he found a good job for "digging ditches" by the expressway and he could not handle it by himself. So he wanted He Ranfeng to go with him. She did not want to go because the three children in the households needed her to cook for them. But she knew that she could not dissuade her husband.
Later He Ranfeng found out that real reason why Qiu Xinghua wanted her to come out with him -- he was worried about her being by herself at home. He Ranfeng found out that the formerly self-confident Qiu Xinghua was becoming more and more jealous during the past year.
Before the work was finished, Qiu Xinghua said that he wanted to go to the Iron Tile Temple to seek divinations for the children. He had two goals -- he wanted to see his son's fate, for the son was the only favored one among his three children. More importantly, he wanted the Taoist priest to determine if the girls are his children.
Previously, Qiu Xinghua told He Ranfeng that if he earns enough money, he will go to have paternity tests done at the best hospital.
Before going up the mountain on June 18, the couple bought about 30 RMB in joss sticks and candles. Once up there, they found out that people paid cash for divinations. Since they had no money, they did not pay. When the Taoist priest gave them the divination, he said nothing because he probably sensed his displeasure.
Worshipping at the Iron Tile Temple picked up in recent years. Before the incident, the authorities were thinking about developing tourism at the Iron Tile Temple and to give formal Taoist garments to the Taoist priests. According to He Ranfeng, when they met the Taoist temple director Xiong Wancheng, the man was wearing a western suit instead of a Taoist gown.
The Taoist priest was unable to answer Qiu Xinghua's second question, and he only recommended the couple to get along peacefully and not quarrel. After staying up there for three days, the couple came back down.
On the first occasion, Qiu Xinghua did not meet with his "enemy," the Iron Tile Temple director Xiong Wancheng.
(After searching eight days and eight nights, there was still no sign of the suspect. Therefore, on the morning of August 11, the search command center made the decision: 100,000 RMB for anyone capturing Qiu Xinghua alive; 50,000 RMB for anyone providing useful information that allowed the police to capture Qiu Xinghua.)
On the way down the mountain, Qiu Xinghua encountered another unpleasant matter: when he got off the car, he bumped his chest against the door. He told He Ranfeng that he felt chest pain and he needed to get treatment in Shiquan county city.
Several days later, He Ranfeng received a telephone call from Qiu Xinghua. He said that he encountered a white-haired old fortune-teller, who said that there are two stone tablets at the Iron Tile Temple with the name of Qiu etched into them. Those were Qiu's ancestors and the two stone tablets have to be moved underneath the roof eaves before Qiu's luck would turn for the better.
But when Qiu Xinghua was interviewed at the Hanyin detention center, he denied all this. "That is a lie," he said in a vague way.
On June 25, the couple went to the Iron Tile Temple a second time. They found two tablets with the name Qiu. This was not surprising, as there were several dozens of different names etched on the stone tablets. However, they took this to indicate that the fortune-teller was right and they moved the two stone tablets from the courtyard to underneath the roof eaves.
The Taoist priests objected to what they were doing and there was a quarrel. According to He Ranfeng, the dispute was not serious. She and Qiu Xinghua compromised and the stone tablets were moved back into the courtyard. But she admitted that in times past with such matters, Qiu Xinghua may seem to yield but he was still resentful inside and he would remember these things in his heart.
Qiu Xinghua could not forget the matter about the two daughters. He made He Ranfeng swear in front of the Taoist gown on the statue of the Taoist grandmaster in Iron Tile Temple that the children are his or else her heart would fail and her eyes would go blind.
They decided to ask director Xiong Wancheng to do a divination. They had heard from people there that director Xiong was very accurate. To get this opportunity, He Ranfeng cooked for the Temple people without pay while Qiu Xinghua did things such as chopping firewood.
Six days later, Xiong Wancheng returned to the Iron Tile Temple. This was the one and only meeting between Xiong and Qiu before the murders. When Xiong got there, He Ranfeng and some other worshippers saw the famous master Xiong. For that, she was scolded by Qiu. That night, the cook He Ranfeng was asked by Xiong Wancheng to eat with the other Temple workers. He Ranfeng said that Qiu Xinghua was not there because he could not be found.
According to He Ranfeng's recollection, Qiu Xinghua did two strange things that night.
According to the Temple rules, couples cannot stay together. During the seven days at the Iron Tile Temple, Qiu Xinghua always slept with the Temple workers while He Ranfeng stayed in an adjacent room by herself.
That night, the couple was with another old female cook warming themselves in the kitchen. Qiu Xinghua suddenly suggested He Ranfeng to go and remind Master Xiong to read the divination for their son tomorrow. He Ranfeng refused because Xiong was likely to be asleep already. Besides, it was inappropriate for her to do so. He Ranfeng claimed that Qiu Xinghua proposed that three times. On the last time, the old woman got annoyed and said that she would do so personally tomorrow morning.
So Qiu Xinghua kept quiet for a while. Then he said that the carpenter sleeping next to him snored too loudly and disturbed his sleep. He wanted to sleep in He Ranfeng's room while she can go to sleep with the old woman.
Although He Ranfeng was reluctant, she did not want to start a fight and so she agreed.
In the middle of the night, Qiu Xinghua suddenly knocked on He Ranfeng's door and asked: "Is something out there making a sound?" He Ranfeng remembered clearly that Qiu Xinghua said that, but she ignored him and did not respond. The old woman replied on her behalf: "There's nothing."
In retrospect, He Ranfeng was really sorry: "If I responded that night, then maybe the murders need not happen." She suspected that Qiu Xinghua did not really hear anything outside, but he only wanted to check if she was inside. Since she did not reply, he concluded that she was not there and she was actually in the room of Xiong Wancheng instead.
The next morning, Qiu Xinghua was in a completely different mood. He did not even want to go through with the divination. At He Ranfeng's insistence, he went through with the ritual. On the way down, Qiu Xinghua cursed his wife for being "shameless" and kneed her in the chest.
The couple went down the mountain and went to the home of a cousin named Li in Chihe town. At dinner, Qiu Xinghua began to talk about wanting to kill people. Li and He tried to dissuade him separately -- they did not imagine that a few days later, Qiu Xinghua would actually go and kill people.
(On August 19, it was past 8pm when Qiu Xinghua arrived home. He entered the house and turned off the light. He Ranfeng was chopping greenfeed for pigs and she asked the eldest daughter Yingying to check. At that instant, the four police men guarding the house had rushed out and surrounded Qiu Xinghua. They were not sure that this was the man that they were all looking so hard for. When Yingying came out and said, "Daddy," they tackled him. Afterwards, the neighbors could hear the whole family wailing.)
Qiu and He separated at Li's home. He went back to her home -- she was concerned about the children who had no one to cook for them. Qiu claimed that he had to get the money for "digging the ditch." Between that day until his arrest on August 19, Qiu Xinghua did not go back to his home in Daheba town, Fuping county.
Qiu Xinghua actually did not go back to the worksite. Instead, he went back to his home town of Hejialiang. Since leaving that place eight years ago, he had not been there again.
On July 9, the beard-covered Qiu Xinghua appeared at Yixin village. First, he visited his parents-in-law. Then he visited his neighbors. He cleared off the weeds on his parents' graves. In front of the neighbors, he showed admiration that they were "doing well." Without exception, the neighbors saw that he was not doing well. A neighbor suggested that he should take a shave, and that displeased him.
Villager Ruan Shiqiang found Qiu Xinghua strange, because he saw Qiu put two pieces of rock in his washing basin. Ruan asked, "Why are you putting rocks there?" Qiu Xinghua said, "There are not rocks. They are crabs."
Villager He Rangao saw the injury on Qiu Xinghua's chest from the collision with the car door and asked him if anything was bothering him. Qiu Xinghua glared at him and asked: "What? Are you a fortuneteller?" He obviously thought that He Rangao had guessed what was on his mind. He Rangao shook his head and gave a denial.
Among the various "enemies" that Qiu Xinghua planned to kill after the first murders, He Rangao was one of them.
Another "enemy" was He Ranfu. When interviewed by the reporter before Qiu Xinghua was caught, He Ranfu said that Qiu Xinghua was weaker than him. Back then, he had chased Qiu Xinghua for a mile and then pushed him over with one shove when he caught him.
On July 12, Qiu Xinghua went to visit a friend outside the village. The friend had just purchased a spotted dog. Qiu told the friend: "This is your fortune to be with it. Treat it well." He added, "If you don't want it, I'll take care of it."
So he came back with the dog. The next morning, he left with the dog before daybreak without saying farewell to anyone. The door was even left ajar.
It was established later that Qiu Xinghua left and took the spotted dog up to the Iron Tile Temple. After Qiu Xinghua committed the murders, he fled with the dog. But the dog later refused to move, so he let it go.
At 2am on July 17, he used an axe and a machete to brutally kill ten Taoist priests and worshippers. Even the old woman who responded to Qiu Xinghua that night was killed. He took more than 700 RMB from the Taoist priests, but he did not touch the mobile phones and money on the worshippers.
Qiu Xinghua said that after the murders, he wanted to do to Daheba village to see his son for the last time. He knew that the police was looking for him, so he slept during the day and climbed the mountains at night. When he was hungry, he ate wild fruits. He had gotten lost at times. When he arrived home, he was still physically strong. It is still a puzzle as to how he went through the three cordons formed by several hundred police officers.
(After Qiu Xinghua was caught, the Shaanxi provincial public security bureau made an immediate report to the Ministry of Public Security. A press conference was held to cancel the arrest warrant for Qiu Xinghua. Shaanxi provincial public security bureau director Wang Rui said, "The reason why the press conference was held so quickly was to reassure the people and relieve them from the feeling of terror."
Qiu Xinghua has lots of friends and relatives, most of whom he had borrowed money from. But Qiu Xinghua told the reporter that he does not have a true friend.
He said that he only has a good teacher Deng Guofeng. "I never had motherly love since I was young. I feel that she is like my mother." He can still remember that since his family was poor, teacher Deng once bought a notebook and a pencil as a present for him.
Between second grade and fourth grade, Deng Guofeng taught Qiu Xinghua for three years. In her mind, the young Qiu Xinghua was "decent and not bad at all." He often wore a pair of grass shoes. She can still remember whenever his family could afford to eat rice (the conditions were bad then, and people often must eat crude food and rarely have rice), he always remembers to ask her over to eat.
About five to six years ago when Qiu Xinghua was moving, he borrowed 300 RMB from Deng Guofeng to pay for the children's tuition. This sum has not been repaid yet. But Qiu Xinghua still remembers that and he is deeply ashamed. He Ranfeng confirmed this to the reporter and said that Qiu Xinghua told her many times that as soon as he makes enough money, he will buy some presents and visit teacher Deng to repay the debt.
Qiu Xinghua said that during his flight, he cried when he remembered teacher Deng: "I've let her down."
But Deng Guofeng does not remember today if she ever treated this child specially. "I only treated him like any other child."
During the interview by this reporter, teacher Deng's husband was reading the day's newspaper. Qiu Xinghua was in four of the pages, including photographs of him, He Ranfu and the three children.