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Chinese police arrest court official, three others for 1997 armed robbery that left woman dead

Police in northern China have arrested four people, including a local court official, in connection with an armed robbery 23 years ago in which a woman was shot dead and two security guards were wounded.
The crime happened in 1997 when a gang attacked an armoured vehicle in the city of Xinji in Hebei province, Chinese media reported on Thursday.
While exact details of the incident were not provided, the gang was said to have escaped with 800,000 yuan (US$114,000) belonging to a cooperative fund. The woman killed was a mother of two who worked as an account executive for the cooperative and was travelling with the money.
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The news reports came after police in Xinji last week issued a statement saying they had detained four people believed to have been involved in the robbery.
Among them was 51-year-old Zhao Zhiyong, who for the past 20 years has risen through the ranks of the judicial system in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei.
The police statement did not say how the breakthrough was made, but a report by Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television said new technology was used to reassess evidence collected from the crime scene.
That led the investigating officers to one of the suspects, who after being detained implicated four other people, including Zhao.
Three of those suspects were also detained, while the fourth was found to have died in 2014, the report said.
Mainland media said that at the time of the robbery, Zhao was a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army.
According to a 2013 report by the official Shijiazhuang Judicial Daily, Zhao began working in the court system in 1998, after retiring from the military.
Last week, Hebei’s judiciary last week removed a news report from its website in which Zhao was described as a “servant of the people”.
The police statement said the arrests of the four suspects represented a victory for perseverance.
“Over the past 23 years, generations of criminal investigators have not given up on the case,” it said. “Justice is upheld thanks to persistence.”
The Chinese Communist Party this month launched a two-year campaign to rid the country’s judicial system of “corrupt elements … (and) … two-faced” officials.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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