A death in Hwaseong recalls serial killings

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A death in Hwaseong recalls serial killings

A woman in her 40s was found dead in an irrigation canal in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, on Sunday, stripped to her panties.

The crime scene had an eerie resemblance to the serial killings of 1986 to 1991 in Hwaseong, which inspired the 2003 movie “Memories of Murder.” The serial killer was never found.

According to police, a 47-year-old woman surnamed Kim was found lying prostrate, with her face turned to the side and facing the wall of 3 meters (9.8 feet) deep and 3 meters wide canal in Jangan-myeon. She was in 40 centimeters (1.3 feet) of water. Kim was found by a local resident around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, who called the police. Clothes including a jacket and a bra were found Monday morning, about 185 to 300 meters away from where Kim was found.

Initial autopsy results from the National Forensics Service revealed scarlet spots on Kim’s body, commonly found on a person who drowned or died from hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning. Kim also had wounds and bruises on her body but none of them directly caused her death, police said.

Police have not ruled out murder, suicide or even an accident as possible causes of death.

From 1986 to 1991, 10 women were found strangled in Hwaseong, some stripped of their clothes. Some were raped before their deaths and suffered serious knife wounds. Three of the 10 women were found in irrigation canals.

The 10 victims ranged in age from their teens to their 70s, and were found within a 2 kilometer-radius (1.2 mile-radius) of the town hall of Taean-eup, Hwaseong, near Byeongjeom station. Sunday’s victim was found 50 kilometers away.

In the case of the eighth victim, a 22-year-old man surnamed Yoon was arrested in 1989 after police discovered his hair on the site. But further investigation concluded that the eighth murder was unrelated to the serial killings.

Forensic science was primitive in the 1980s and it was only by the ninth and 10th murders that police tested semen found on the women. The results indicated that the suspect in those two murders may not be the same person.

The statute of limitations for the final murder expired in 2006, but police maintained the records given the case’s significance and public interest. Around 2 million police officers worked on the case, and as many as 3,000 suspects were investigated at the time.

With no CCTV camera on the 1.5-kilometer road from Kim’s house to the place where she was found, police are focusing on questioning her family and local residents. Kim lived with her mother, who is in her 80s.

Police found Kim was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a local hospital early this month. In 2003, she was diagnosed with a third-degree mental health disorder. They also found that Kim was hospitalized in a mental health institute in 2005.

More in-depth autopsy results will be available after two weeks.

BY LIM MYOUNG-SOO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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