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April 27, 2011

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'End of world' hammer attack

A MIDDLE-AGED man, believing the world was coming to an end, attacked his father and nephew with a hammer and set fire to their home in Luwan District yesterday.

According to witnesses, the fire broke out about 12:45pm, burning through the rooftop of the old two-story house in a small lane on Ji'nan Road and spreading to at least four other apartments. The blaze was extinguished about 1:15pm.

A senior in his 70s surnamed Xia and an 18-year-old young man were sent to the Ruijin Hospital for treatment to head injuries. No other casualties were reported.

Xia Hongbiao, the 48-year-old unemployed man who is alleged to have attacked his family and started the fire, was taken away by Luwan Police. Officers said there had been family disputes.

Neighbors told of the harrowing sight of the injured men being taken to hospital. "It was horrible. I saw big holes in the heads of both the old man and young man, and they were bleeding profusely," said a 54-year-old neighbor surnamed Wang,

"I heard Xia screaming at them, saying, 'we will die together.' The next thing, the house was on fire."

Wang said she had heard quarrels among the family because Xia had allegedly asked for money from his father to purchase supplies in preparation for the "world's end."

She and other neighbors believed he was suffering from mental problems as he once bought 150 kilograms of rice and boxes of food and drinks, warning neighbors to prepare for the "coming disaster to mankind."

In the eyes of neighbors, Xia had been a pleasant and smart man who had been unemployed for years but managed to earn a living selling newspapers in the block.

"He seemed to learn a lot from newspapers as he often discussed politics and hot issues with neighbors," said a resident surnamed Xu.

Xu said Xia was a skilled mahjong player and a friend to many other residents in the apartments.

But Xia changed completely after he went to a gathering in the city's Fuxing Park several months ago, where he learned the superstition of the "World Apocalypse" and became of firm believer that the world was about to end, neighbors said. "He quit selling newspapers and locked himself away to study the mystery of his superstition," said Xu.

Neighbors said Xia's family took him to a Suzhou hospital for a medical check, and the results showed he had mental health problems.

Xia lived with his two brothers, his nephew and his father.

His brothers were at work at the time of the incident.


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