Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Monday, 27 April 2009 15:58 UK

Couple 'murdered for scam cash'

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Their bodies were found in a ground-floor flat in Croydon Road

A Chinese couple could have been murdered for money they made from an internet betting scam and selling false qualifications, a court has heard.

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

Guang Hui Cao, 30, of Castle Close, Morpeth, Northumberland, denies murder.

Unnecessary violence was used if their killer only meant to steal belongings, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

Miss Zhou, known as Cici, was killed when she returned home from a lunchtime shift at a city centre noodle bar.

She was gagged and placed face down on a bed, where she suffocated about 90 minutes later.

She was also struck about the head with a hammer, or a similar weapon, causing her skull to fracture, the jury heard.

Mr Yang, known as Kevin, was placed on another bed in the property and hit about the head and face with a similar weapon. His throat was also cut with a knife.

Guang Hui Cao is taken to court
Guang Hui Cao denies two counts of murder

Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said mobile phones and a laptop computer were taken from the flat.

But the level of violence used was not "even remotely necessary" to take those items, he said.

There was, however, evidence that Mr Yang made a living selling false qualifications and that he assisted in a fraudulent internet betting operation, the court heard.

"Whether this affords an explanation for the action of the person or persons responsible, it's certainly a realistic possibility, particularly if those facts became known to them," Mr Smith said.

The court was told that Miss Zhou earned £14,000 a year as a waitress and Mr Yang had officially earned just £3,000 in the past year.

But police discovered £233,690 had passed through their bank accounts.

Bloodstains

Mr Smith told the jury it was "impossible to say" whether any money was taken from their home on the day the couple were killed.

Mr Cao initially made contact with the couple when they placed an advert to sub-let their spare room to a Chinese student, the court heard.

Mr Smith said: "He was not a student and he did require a room. He had seen that advert and had used it to make contact. He had done so in order to gain access to the property."

During their investigations, police found a pair of trousers, heavily stained with Mr Yang's blood, which also contained traces of Mr Cao's DNA.

Mr Yang's spectacles and watch, also splattered with blood, were found in Mr Cao's home.

The trial continues.



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