The case of the cannibal Shen brothers (Shen Changyin, 沈长银, born 1976; and Shen Changping, 沈长平, born 1984) shook China between June 2003 and August 2004.
Their criminal story began in their native rural county of Huojia, Henan, in September 1999, where the older brother, Changyin stabbed a man. In 2000, probably to escape from the police, they started wandering around China. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2003 that something clicked in the two young serial killers’ minds.
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The two decided to turn to kidnap to try to make up for the financial loss of their failed investment in an auto parts business. In just one year, from June 2003 to August 2004, they killed and cannibalized 11 prostitutes, taken from local beauty salons and spas with the help of three other young former victims and accomplices at the same time. The first victim was Yao Fang, lured by deception into a house and then tied up. They forced her to give her bank account pin, then strangled and dismembered her.
Towards the end of November 2003, the two brothers kidnapped Li Chunling, from Shandong, in the same way. But the girl, in order to save her life, made a pact with the devil: the girl would help them get other prostitutes in exchange for her life. The Shen accepted and spared her. A few days later, the girl brought another victim, lured by deception into the den of the two brothers. After robbing her, the two forced Li Chunling to kill her. They removed her kidneys to eat them fried and then disposed of the corpse with sulfuric acid; they then flushed the remains down the toilet drain.
In Lanzhou, they killed three more victims, before moving to Taiyuan in Shanxi in April 2004. Once again, in their new rented house, the Shen kidnapped another prostitute, Zhao Meiying, from Shanxi, and forced her to procure other young girls. In order to save her life, Zhao was forced to stab one of the three victims she had handed over to the two torturers. In order to get rid of the corpse they did not hesitate to use the most monstrous methods: they ground the victim after removing her kidneys to be eaten and dissolved the remains in sulfuric acid.
The cannibal brothers continued to claim victims in two other Chinese cities: Hefei in Anhui and Baotou in Inner Mongolia. In the meantime, however, both Zhao and Li ended up in the hands of the police, who set out on their trail. Their escape ended in September 2004 in an apartment in Shijiazhuang, Hebei.
Together with a new accomplice, Du Surong from Sichuan, they were arrested while trying to dispose of the dismembered corpse of a victim, Wang Fengjuan. In the house the police found remains, various tools, more than a dozen credit cards, money, and jewelry. In all, the two Shens stole more than 120,000 yuan in cash. The Shens and Li were sentenced to capital punishment in 2005. The other accomplices, who were between 16 and 26 years old at the time of the crimes, received sentences between 3 and 20 years in prison.