A Chinese woman accused of murdering seven people , including a three-year-old girl, more than two decades ago pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying she was coerced into the crimes, according to state media reports.
In a two-day trial that ended on Tuesday, Lao Rongzhi, 46, told Nanchang Intermediate People’s Court that her involvement stopped at kidnapping and robbery and that she was not aware the victims would be murdered by her boyfriend and partner in crime Fa Ziying, according to Procuratorial Daily , a newspaper published by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
“I was only 21 … I was confused,” Lao was quoted as saying. “I was coerced by Fa and couldn’t break up for fear that he would retaliate against my family.”
Fa was tried and executed in 1999 after he was caught at the home of a victim in Hefei, Anhui province, attempting to collect a ransom.
Lao remained on the run until she was arrested in the southern city of Xiamen in November last year.
But prosecutors alleged that Lao was equally responsible for the crimes, according to the report.
“Lao and Fa had a fixed pattern and a clear division of responsibility in the crimes, with Lao playing the important role of finding targets in clubs, luring them to rented flats, tying them up and threatening them,” prosecutors told the court.
“Lao and Fa committed the series of crimes together.”
Prosecutors alleged that Lao had ample opportunity to leave Fa and the couple always spent the proceeds of their crimes together.
They also claimed that Lao bought a secondhand fridge to store the bodies and urged Fa to “burn down the house” of one of the victims, prosecutors said.
As evidence to support the charges, prosecutors offered the fresh testimony of Liu Hua, who said he was kidnapped and robbed by the couple in 1998.
Liu, from Changzhou, Jiangsu province, did not testify at Fa’s trial two decades ago.
Liu said he met Lao at a club and was lured to her flat, where he was stabbed and robbed. He then called his wife to bring a ransom of 70,000 yuan, only for his wife to also be tied up. The couple were spared their lives after begging for mercy.
During the hearing, Lao apologised to the families of the victims, saying it “came 20 years too late”.
She also claimed that she was sexually abused by Fa.
The court adjourned to consider a verdict.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.