“Sadly, six dead kids may have died because of our failings…”
–Wu Heping, From China’s Ministry Of Public Security
There are many theories as to what it takes to create a killer. What makes them become a monster, what seed of evil grows into the horrors they commit? No one is really sure, though we know it happens at a young age. What sparked Ted Bundy’s murderous rage was speculated to have been finding out his big sister was actually his mother. This crack and the emotions it caused within him would break fully when his fiance would later reject him, another woman that didn’t want him. For Gong Runbo, it might have been from an early exposure to murder.
Very little is known of his early life, though there are reports that he witnessed his uncle’s murder. Gong was convicted of raping a young girl in 1996 and was released from prison eight years later.
Now a free man of 32 with no job, no prospects, and no real ties, Gong skirted his police check in. He eventually settled into a slum near Jiamusi city in Heilongjiang province. He spent his days playing games in local internet cafes and generally keeping to himself. Not long after he settled in, however, did the police of Jiamusi city start to notice they had a growing number of missing children.
Month after month those numbers grew. Mothers would implore them daily for updates. Any scrap of news as to the location of their children.
The police were slow to catch on to the pattern. Leads were few and there wasn’t much traction in the case until one of the missing children literally ran into their arms.
One of the missing boys ran down the narrow street between the shacks until he came across two officers on patrol. There wasn’t much they could get out of the child, who was extremely scared and out of breath. Eventually, he managed to relay to the officers an idea of where he had ran from and one of the cops went down into the slum to investigate. After passing a few empty homes the officer came across a strange scene. Through a broken window, he saw a naked man riding what seemed to be a rocking horse. That naked man was Gong Runbo.
It is at this point where accounts get a little murky. Some sources claim that the rocking horse wasn’t made of wood but instead was cobbled together from parts of the missing children. Others claim that the police only moved on Gong after the boy who escaped told them about the bodies.
Whatever the case, when Gong left his home that day on February 28, 2006 for one of his favorite cafes, an officer followed while others raided the home. There they found the decomposing remains of four children as well as over a dozen pairs of shoes. There were bones and other partial remains which led police to believe he had killed over 20 children.
Gong was arrested and it was revealed through the investigation that he had lured his victims from the internet cafes with promises of food or games. A method of hunting that is shockingly familiar. Huang Yong, another prolific Chinese killer, also used internet cafes as his hunting grounds.
It came to light that Gong had molested another five kids as well, though for whatever reason he let them go. This is not an uncommon thing for serial killers to do, John Wayne Gacy for example drugged and raped a man but spared his life for unknown reasons. Gong showed a troubling pathology, he seemed to suffer from a number of paraphilias which drove his sexual crimes. The choice to kill the children he sexually assaulted could have come from his earlier arrest for rape. If he killed them, then there could be no witness against him.
Even after Gong Runbo was convicted, of only 6 of his suspected 20 murders, there was a lingering question. How?
How was he able to go on killing? How did he evade police for so long? Leading the charge for answers to these questions were families of the victims.
China had enacted a ban on minors in internet bars before Gong had began his bloody work. However, it wasn’t being properly enforced by either the owners or the police. The police also showed gross inaction when it came to searching for the missing children. Wu Heping, a spokesman for China’s Ministry Of Public Safty, would say in a press conference on Gong Runbo’s trial: “Sadly, six dead kids may have died because of our failings…”
Once again this lack of police action mirrors the case of Huang Yong, his murders were only stopped when one of the young men he had abducted escaped and informed the police.
Gong Runbo pled guilty to his crimes and was executed by a single gunshot to the head on December 20, 2006. Due to China’s tight control over the media, information on Gong Runbo and what has been dubbed “The Rocking Horse Murders”, is hard to come by.
(If you enjoyed reading about Gong Runbo, feel free to check out other killers
in my Human Monsters category.)
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