Zhou Kehua
Zhou Kehua Reuters

The manhunt to catch China's most wanted man is finally over after police cornered and killed Zhou Kehua in the southwestern city of Chongqing.

Zhou has evaded capture for eight years but was finally trapped in a shoe factory where he was shot dead by police, Xinhua news agency reports.

Zhou, 42, was on the run for killing nine people in a series of robberies and bank raids. He was described by authgorities as "ruthless and extremely dangerous".

The manhunt was stepped up recently when Zhou re-emerged in Chongqing, where he shot a woman dead outside a bank, then killed a policeman and wounded two bystanders on the same day.

His criminal career targeted three Chinese provinces but ended in the city where it had begun in 2004.

His first killing was of a woman during a bank robbery when he got away with 70,000 yuan ($11,000).

Despite a £50,000 bounty on his head he was always one step ahead of the police and was believed to be hiding in the mountains.

"We have not seen this kind of cold-blooded killer in years," an unnamed police official said.

Police deployed a massive number of officers in the hunt to reassure a nervous local population that it was serious that it was cracking down on crime.

Concern rose in Chongqing after the sacking of local Communist party boss Bo Xilai, who had a reputation for his tough stance on criminals.