A suspect in a decades-old serial murder case in South Korea has confessed to the killings – but he won’t be prosecuted for his crimes.
Police investigated 21,000 individuals and compared the fingerprints of around 20,000 more in an effort to find the person responsible for the rape and murder of 10 women in Hwaseong, 60 kilometers south of Seoul, South Korea, between 1986 and 1991.
A record number of police officers were mobilised to help solve the crimes, however their efforts proved unsuccessful.
The serial killings inspired the 2003 box office film Memories of Murder by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, and the case has been described by The Guardian as ‘one of the country’s most notorious’.
Last month, police were finally able to identify 56-year-old Lee Chun-jae as a suspect in at least three of the killings by using the latest forensic techniques to retrieve DNA from evidence, including a victim’s underwear, which matched Lee’s.
The 56-year-old is currently serving a life sentence for raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1994.
He initially denied his involvement in the Hwaseong murders and one of the 10 cases later turned out to have been a copycat killing, however this week officials announced Lee had confessed to the remaining nine murders.
In a press briefing, the Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency said Lee not only confessed to the Hwaseong murders but also five additional murders and about 30 rapes and attempted rapes, The Straits Times report.
A team of veteran profilers have questioned Lee nine times at Busan Prison and police said they are in the process of verifying the suspect’s claims due to irregularities in his account of the crimes.
However, despite his confession, Lee could not be prosecuted for the killings as the statue of limitations on the Hwaseong murders has expired. The statute of limitations is a law that states the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated; in Lee’s case the statute of limitations was 25 years.
According to CNN, Ban Gi-Soo, the director of the Hwaseong serial murder investigation team, explained that despite the statute of limitations running out, police maintained records of their investigations and continued making checks into cases.
Ban has expressed his regret about the length of time it took to identify Lee, The Guardian reports.
I express my deep condolences to the victims and their families, as well as the Korean public, for not having been able to solve this case for a long time.
We will do our best to discover the truth with a sense of historical responsibility.
The killer’s victims ranged from teenagers to a woman in her 70s.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.