A 52-year-old man from Baiyin confessed to the murders of 11 women and girls, which took place in Gansu and also the Inner Mongolia region, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

The shop store owner is alleged to have chosen women wearing the colour red during his 14-year reign of terror between 1988 and 2002. He followed them home before raping and killing them. An eight-year-old girl was his youngest victim, while others are reported to have had their throats slashed and reproductive organs removed. This led the Chinese media calling him 'Jack the Ripper'.

In 2004, when police first linked all of the 11 killings, a spokesman said: "The suspect has a sexual perversion and hates women. He's reclusive and unsociable but patient." Baiyin police issued a reward of 200,000 yuan for any information leading to an arrest, according to China Daily.

During March 2016, a new investigation was launched by the Criminal Investigation Bureau using the latest technology to re-examine DNA evidence and biological samples.

Gao was caught after his uncle was put under house arrest under suspicion of a minor crime. His DNA was tested and DNA expert Yin Guoxing concluded that the killer must be a close relative. Gao was swabbed for analysis and his sample allegedly matched those collected at several crime scenes.

Chengyong's son spoke to local media saying his father had experienced "bitter suffering" in his youth, after failing to qualify as a pilot for "political reasons". Those who knew him said he was a quiet man and emotionally detached from his family and those around him.

Women were so terrified of being attacked that they would not walk alone in Bayin, the area where many of the killings took place, unless they went out in groups.

Cui Xiangping, whose sister Cui Jinping was one of the women killed in 1998, said his mother had not stopped crying since she heard of Chengyong's arrest. Jinping was stabbed 22 times and her throat had been cut. Parts of her body and hands were never recovered.