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October 29, 2009

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Couple's virtual-world romance ends in a real-life murder case

A SALESMAN who created an alter ego on a social networking Website killed his virtual "wife" after he found out she was only after his money and his real-life girlfriend jilted him, prosecutors in Shanghai's Minhang District said yesterday.

Liu Zhongwen, a Fujian Province native, will face trial on a charge of murder.

Prosecutors gave the following account of the events that led to the killing:

Liu, 25, came to Shanghai in 2007 to work in sales at an overseas company after graduating from university. He met a woman named Zhu Cai, who worked in a hotel, and began living with her.

Early last year, Liu, who was addicted to Internet chatting, met another woman online. As time went on, she suggested they engage in a virtual marriage on a Website that allows users to construct a make-believe life. She said they could buy a virtual apartment on the site and even have a virtual baby.

Liu agreed to play out the fantasy, and the two had a romantic wedding online.

But real life began to intrude on the virtual world when Liu became more infatuated with his online wife, a Pudong cosmetics company worker surnamed Bao, and asked to meet her in person.

The meeting, however, was discovered by Zhu who followed Liu. The angry girlfriend swore to take revenge and began to make friends online, too.

Zhu began going out and even spent the night with Net friends. Liu then started seeing more of Bao, often buying her clothes.

It gradually dawned on Liu that Bao didn't love him and was just after his money. He tried to reconcile with his former girlfriend, but she turned him down, saying she was living with another man.

Things came to a head on July 20 when Liu called Bao to his residence. He asked Bao to be his girlfriend, pointing out his original lover had left because of her.

But Bao said she had a boyfriend already and couldn't be held responsible for the other breakup.

Her coldness irritated Liu, and he strangled her with a tie. After Bao died, Liu wrapped her body in a sheet and put the remains under his bed.

Liu tried to commit suicide the next day by taking sleeping pills. But he woke up later only to find he had thrown up the drugs.

Deciding that he wouldn't try to take his life a second time, Liu sent a message to Bao's younger brother on her cell phone, saying Bao was well. The strange message raised suspicion among Bao's family members and they contacted police. Police caught Liu 10 days later with the body still in his apartment.


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