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Taiwan child murderer escapes death penalty

Taipei (AFP) – A schizophrenic Taiwanese man who decapitated a three-year-old girl in public on a busy Taipei street escaped the death penalty today as he was sentenced to life in prison for what the court called an “appalling” crime.

Wang Ching-yu, 34, had pleaded guilty to killing the child in a crime that shocked the generally peaceful island after overpowering her mother near a metro station.

He beheaded the girl with a kitchen knife as horrified bystanders tried to stop him.

Wang had told the court that he hallucinated he was a Chinese emperor from Sichuan province and believed that killing the girl would bring him concubines to “carry on his family line,” according to reports.

When asked in court if he knew why murder was wrong, he had said he knew he had made a mistake because no Sichuan woman had come forward to bear him children after the killing.

Prosecutors called the crime “extremely cold-blooded” and demanded the death penalty.

But judge Tsai Shou-hsun told a Taipei district court Friday that he would instead be jailed for life as he had a “mental handicap”.

Wearing black-framed glasses, a white T-shirt and track pants, his head shaved, Wang remained calm as he listened to the verdict, responding: “I understand”.

The victim’s family were not in court.

In a statement after the verdict, the court said the decision was in accordance with international human rights covenants protecting those with mental illnesses.

It said Wang had been expelled from school and had gone through drug rehabilitation, but was reclusive and isolated, developing schizophrenia and hallucinations.

However, the statement also described the killing as “grotesquely violent”, adding that Wang had known murder was illegal and had dodged supervision in order to commit it.

“He has not shown empathy and regret, and after assessment the chance of committing crime again is still high,” the statement said.