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China executes man for rape and killing spree

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A serial killer who murdered six people and raped 10 women and two girls, including a 12-year-old, was executed Tuesday, according to the country’s top court.

Zhao Zhihong, 47, known as the “smiling killer”, was sentenced to death in Inner Mongolia in 2015 for crimes committed in the northern region between 1996 and 2005.

He strangled most of his victims with his hands but killed one with telephone wire and slashed another.

“The nature of his crimes was particularly gruesome,” said the Supreme People’s Court, which has the final word on executions.

Chinese journalists who met Zhao dubbed him the “smiling killer” because of his seemingly unflappable demeanour.

Zhao was arrested in 2005 and confessed to a string of crimes, including the 1996 rape and choking to death of a woman in the toilet of a textile factory in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia’s capital.

An 18-year-old named Hugjiltu had already been tried, convicted, sentenced and executed for that murder. The teenager was posthumously exonerated after his family fought for years to prove his innocence.

In another twist in the case, the top court on Tuesday annulled Zhao’s conviction for that crime due to a lack of evidence, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

China enacted new provisions in 2010 that strengthened the evidence requirements for death sentences, and in 2015 reduced the number of capital crimes from 55 to 46.


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