A Chinese businessman suspected of involvement in the deaths of a family of four found murdered at their home in Britain was today at the centre of a nationwide manhunt.
Northamptonshire Police said they believed university lecturer Jifeng Ding, his wife Helen and their daughters Alice and Xing had been “tragically targeted” because of their business links to Anxiang Du.
Naming Mr Du, who lives in Coventry, as a suspect in the quadruple murder inquiry, detectives also revealed that the 52-year-old wrote a suicide note shortly before the murders are thought to have been committed.
Detective Superintendent Glynn Timmins said Dr Ding, who worked at Manchester Metropolitan University, his wife, who was a part-time teacher, and their daughters had all died from stab wounds.
The family members were found dead at their detached home in Wootton, Northampton, on Sunday and police later established that a Vauxhall Corsa hired by one of the victims was missing from the address.
Warning the public not to approach Mr Du and confirming his status as a suspect, Mr Timmins said: “We want to seek the public’s assistance in finding Mr Du so that we can question him about this incident.
“The public should ring 999 if they see the car or indeed Mr Du – my advice would be that neither Mr Du nor the car should be approached.”
It emerged that Mr Du left a suicide note at his workplace before he was last seen on the day of the royal wedding, and was then reported missing to West Midlands Police.
Mr Du, who worked at a Chinese herbal medicine shop in Birmingham, was last seen on Friday morning when the victims are known to have still been alive because Alice, 12, and Xing, 18, used their Facebook accounts.
Mr Du is described as being of slim build, routinely wears a baseball cap and is thought to have left his home in Coventry at about 10.30am on Friday.
The businessman then travelled to the shop where he worked in Birmingham city centre, but left his workplace later that morning.
“The link we are pursuing is the association through business interests between Mr Du and Helen,” Mr Timmins told reporters yesterday.
The detective added that the business interests were complex, but were thought to be legitimate.
Mr Timmins declined to disclose exact details of the note left by Mr Du for family members, but confirmed that it “appeared to be saying goodbye”.
Conceding that Mr Du may already be dead, Mr Timmins added: “We have no idea where Mr Du may be at the moment – that’s why we are seeking the assistance of the public. My assumption is that he is still alive.”
Meanwhile, inquiries are continuing to trace relatives of Dr Ding and his wife, who both originated from the Hang Zhou area of China.
Mr Timmins said he did not believe there was a general threat to the public and that Dr Ding, who was known as Jeff, and the other family members were specifically targeted rather than falling victim to a random attack.
But the officer stressed that the public should exercise caution if they spot Mr Du or the Vauxhall Corsa, which has the registration plate BG60 PMO.
In a statement, Manchester Metropolitan University said it was shocked and saddened by news of the deaths.