Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 12:29 UK

Blood trail led police to killer

By Chris Stewart, Chief Reporter
Look North, Newcastle

Guang Hui Cao
Police found Guang Hui Cao working as a dishwasher in Northumberland

The scene that met detectives from Northumbria Police on 9 August 2008 can only be described as horrific.

In one bedroom of the ground floor flat in Newcastle was Xi Zhou, bound, gagged and beaten to death.

In the second bedroom was Zhen Xing Yang, also badly beaten and with his throat cut.

But whoever was responsible had made a mistake. And that mistake, with the help of the BBC's Crimewatch programme, would lead the police to Guang Hui Cao.

On a sofa inside the flat lay a pair of men's jeans, spattered with blood. They had a 36" waist, far too big for the slightly-built Zhen Xing Yang.

He's a bit of a mystery man, to be quite honest. We know very little about him.
Det Supt Steve Wade

Forensic experts were easily able to establish the blood was Zhen Xing Yang's. They were able to say that the splatter pattern showed that whoever had been wearing them had been standing over him as he was being beaten.

Scientists were also able to get a DNA profile of the wearer of the jeans from the waistband.

"It was very important to us but also very frustrating," said Det Supt Steve Wade, who was in charge of the inquiry.

"We knew the jeans had been accidentally left behind at the scene and that those responsible for the murders had probably got changed afterwards into clean clothes, intending to take all the bloodied clothes away with them in plastic bags," he said.

"With the jeans though, it meant that we would be able to positively identify the person who was wearing them - but only once we'd found that person.

Eight Croydon Road
Bloodstained jeans were found at the scene of the murder

"We checked DNA databases but couldn't find a match. But we knew that the net was closing."

On 9 September the net would close in further.

Two schoolboys found a carrier bag in bushes in Nun's Moor Park - one of a number of public parks to the north and west of Newcastle city centre - and only half a mile from the flat where the young couple had been found.

Inside the bag were three mobile telephones.

One of the boys took the bag and telephones home. His father tried a SIM card in one of the phones and when he switched it on found it contained pictures of a young Chinese couple.

Two days later a Crimewatch appeal led the boy's father to contact the police.

Again, the work of scientists proved invaluable. A DNA trace was found on the handle of the carrier bag, where it had been tied into a knot, which matched a sample taken from the trousers found at the flat.

Zhen Xing Yang and Xi Zhou
Two boys found a mobile phone containing photos of the couple

A text message received by one of the phones referred to "8 Croydon Road" - the scene of the murder - and further text records along with owner registration details set detectives on a path that would lead them to Guang Hui Cao.

Very quickly they began to focus on an upmarket Chinese restaurant called Mulan, in the Northumberland county town of Morpeth.

Guang Hui Cao was working in the kitchen washing dishes. The owners had provided him and a number of his colleagues with accommodation at a nearby house.

Early on 23 October police raided the house at Castle Close and took Guang Hui Cao away for questioning.

Scientists later found traces of Zhen Xing Yang's blood on the suspect's watch and spectacles.

The police had their man. But who was he?

Illegal immigrant

"He's a bit of a mystery man, to be quite honest," said Mr Wade.

"We know very little about him. We know he came to this country in 2001, ostensibly to study on a student's visa.

"For the last few years he's essentially outstayed his welcome and he's therefore an illegal immigrant. He's been working in kitchens and bars and restaurants as a dishwasher.

"We've actually checked him on the police systems and he's not recorded with any of the UK authorities or with the Chinese police service.

"However, everything I know as a detective says you don't go from washing dishes to being a double murderer.

"I question whether there is something in his background where he's been involved in some previous form of criminality.

"I can't prove that. It's just a gut feeling and a bit of a suspicion I have."

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