Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 15:54 UK

Life for murder of Chinese couple

Xi Zhou and her boyfriend Zhen Xing Yang
Both victims were repeatedly hit with a heavy weapon

An illegal immigrant who murdered a Chinese couple in Newcastle has been jailed for life.

The mutilated bodies of Zhen Xing Yang and his girlfriend Xi Zhou, both 25, were found in their flat in Croydon Road on 9 August 2008.

Restaurant worker Guang Hui Cao, 31, of Castle Close, Morpeth, Northumberland, had denied the killings.

The judge at Newcastle Crown Court said he was satisfied that the couple's murder was an execution.

Mr Justice Wilkie said it "involved horrifying and unimaginable suffering".

He sentenced Cao to life and ordered him to serve a minimum term of 33 years

During the three-week trial, the jury heard how the couple had been involved in a lucrative internet betting scam.

The bodies of Zhen Xing Yang and Xi Zhou were found in their flat in Croydon Road.

Miss Zhou died after being hit with a heavy weapon and was found bound and gagged face down on a bed.

Mr Yang died after being repeatedly hit with a hammer-like weapon and having his throat slit.

Police said Cao arrived in the UK in 2001 on a student visa, but "outstayed his welcome" and remained in the country illegally.

He pretended he wanted to sub-let a room in the flat to make contact with the couple before killing them.

After the murder, Cao changed his clothes and fled the property with laptop computers and mobile phones which linked him to the couple.

The phones were found dumped in a nearby park by two boys, with the batteries and sim cards missing.

They were handed to police after the murders were featured on the BBC's Crimewatch programme, and police discovered phone contact between the couple and Cao.

This person did not just kill two people, he has killed two families

ShuZhen Qu, Mr Yang's mother

He was arrested at his home and police discovered a flake of Mr Yang's blood on Cao's glasses, while more blood was found in two recesses of Cao's watch.

In his defence, Cao claimed he had been blackmailed into unwittingly helping to set up the couple's deaths after threats were made to his family in China.

He said he was in the flat at Croydon Road when they were killed, but was tied up and locked in the bathroom.

The court heard the couple could have been killed for their part in a lucrative internet betting operation which saw £233,000 pass through their bank accounts in three years.

Their parents spoke of their loss which was particularly profound as, due to Chinese regulations, both were only children.

Miss Zhou's father, Sanbao Zhou, said he felt "as if the sky had fallen on us" when he heard about his daughter's death.

He said: "We nurtured her for 25 years and now she is suddenly gone. Words alone cannot possibly convey the harm that has been done to our family."

Due to China's policy of one child per family they were both only children

Mr Yang's mother, ShuZhen Qu, said a "great deal of harm" had been done to both herself and her husband.

"This person did not just kill two people, he has killed two families. If this had not happened, we expected our son to return to China and the lives of our entire family would have been very different.

"We have now been sentenced to go to hell. Our family will never be able to have any future generations."

After the guilty verdict was delivered, Cao collapsed in the dock.

An ambulance was called and proceedings were adjourned until later in the afternoon.

Motive 'unknown'

In sentencing, Mr Justice Wilkie said: "I am satisfied that this was an execution against two young people that had become embroiled in some criminal activity.

"In some way they had crossed a large criminal gang and were punished by them. They were held up as an example and murdered in a cruel and savage way.

"In the case of Miss Zhou her skull had been fractured in three places.

"She had suffered horrifying and unimaginable suffering and in this way a clear message had been sent."

Det Supt Steve Wade, of Northumbria Police, said the true motive for the killings may never be known.

"Only three people ever knew - two of them are dead and one has told lies throughout the police investigation.

"There is no hard evidence, intelligence or information to support the view that others may also have been involved in the killing.

"If that position changes, and any new information comes to light, we will consider it very carefully."

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