BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese car thief strangled a two-month-old baby to death after stealing a vehicle with the infant inside, police said, provoking outrage across the country on Wednesday.
The boy was in an SUV stolen by Zhou Xijun, 48, in northeastern Jilin province on Monday, triggering a hunt involving thousands of police officers and taxi drivers until he handed himself in the following day and confessed, reports said.
Zhou "discovered a baby in the back seat of the stolen car, stopped at the side of a road before strangling the baby to death and burying it in the snow," Jilin police said in an online statement.
The body of the little boy was identified by his parents on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.
"Early Wednesday morning, my wife and I identified the body of our son," the baby's father Xu Jialin said, according to Xinhua.
Xu added that his son's death has dealt a severe emotional blow to his wife, who has been sent to the hospital for treatment.
Chinese media gave the case prominent coverage on Wednesday and the topic dominated social media websites, generating far more attention than the annual meeting of China's parliament, which opened in Beijing on Tuesday.
The parents left the child alone in the car for 10 minutes with the engine running before realising the vehicle was stolen, the state-run Global Times daily said, adding a family member had "fainted from grief" on hearing of Zhou's confession.
Internet users expressed their disgust at the crime and many called for Zhou to be put to death. "Killing him once would not be enough," one user of Sina Weibo, a website similar to Twitter, wrote.
"I would never have imagined that what people feared most would actually happen... the killer should be severely punished," wrote another user.
China had a murder rate of 1.0 per 100,000 people in 2010, according to the United Nations, among the lowest in the world.