Murder suspect on the run for 17 years after confessing to killing boyfriend caught by China's facial recognition system

More than 40 fugitives have been apprehended at the checkpoint in Huchang Expressway, where the suspect was caught, in the past seven months


                            Murder suspect on the run for 17 years after confessing to killing boyfriend caught by China's facial recognition system

A facial recognition system installed at a motorway checkpoint in east China was able to catch a murderer who has been on the run for 17 years, per multiple reports. The woman, who murdered her boyfriend in the south-western Yunnan province, was spotted more than 1,615 miles away in Shanghai.

However, when the suspect stopped at a highway checkpoint to ask for directions while traveling with a colleague, the facial recognition technology in place identified her from an online database of fugitives, ultimately leading to her arrest, the Daily Mail reported.

A woman who murdered her boyfriend and fled the south-western Yunnan province was caught by facial recognition systems installed at a motorway checkpoint in east China.  (Courtesy: CCTV)
A woman who murdered her boyfriend and fled the south-western Yunnan province was caught by facial recognition systems installed at a motorway checkpoint in east China.  (Courtesy: CCTV)

On January 6 at about 3.20 pm, the woman was caught on surveillance footage walking towards a checkpoint along the Huchang Expressway. According to state broadcaster CCTV, an alarm went off as soon as she stepped indoors, indicating a possible fugitive was spotted.

The unidentified woman tried telling officers she did not have an ID on her and that her family name was Zhang. However, a traffic police officer signaled a colleague to call out her real name - Li Lineng - from a distance to see her reaction. The woman involuntarily looked up and responded when her name was called out, thus exposing her identity in the process.

According to the report, the woman had apparently been living in various cities including Shenzhen and Guangzhou under a pseudonym while on the run. She has now been handed to police in Yunnan province, 17 years after she confessed to murdering her boyfriend.

The unidentified woman tried to play the system by telling officers she did not have an ID on her and that her family name was Zhang.  (Courtesy: CCTV)
The unidentified woman tried to play the system by telling officers she did not have an ID on her and that her family name was Zhang.  (Courtesy: CCTV)

Addressing reporters, office Lu said, "Images of pedestrians, passengers, drivers, and passing vehicles would be scanned by our surveillance cameras and uploaded to our facial recognition system. If an image matches with any of our images in our fugitive database, an alarm would be triggered."

Shanghai police have implemented several facial recognition systems across the city in 2018, with more than 40 fugitives apprehended at the checkpoint in Huchang Expressway in the past seven months, per the report. According to the BBC, 170 million CCTV cameras are already in function across the country and an estimated 400 million new ones are due to be installed in the next two years.

China is investing heavily in an overarching digital surveillance system that can read biometric data from photos, iris scans, as well as fingerprints, which would enable keeping close tabs on its swarming population of 1.4 billion.

Shanghai police implemented several facial recognition systems across the city in 2018, with more than 40 fugitives apprehended at the checkpoint in Huchang Expressway in the past seven months. (Courtesy: CCTV)
Shanghai police implemented several facial recognition systems across the city in 2018, with more than 40 fugitives apprehended at the checkpoint in Huchang Expressway in the past seven months. (Courtesy: CCTV)

Since February, transport police in Zhengzhou city, central China, have been testing high-tech sunglasses which enable them to spot suspects in a crowded train station in a matter of seconds. What's more? Police in Shenzhen city, south-eastern China, have reportedly started to name and shame unruly drivers and jaywalkers by projecting their faces on LED screens after verifying their identity from a database.

The popularity of facial recognition systems has sparked a demand for their application even in commercial establishment such as gyms, restaurants and even public toilets.