Suspicions that notorious serial killer Zhou Kehua was not shot dead are still circulating, prompting police in different cities to make clarifications, which analysts said highlights the need for the authorities to further disclose information demanded by the public.
Doubts surrounding the dramatic case began circulating the moment Chongqing police announced the robber was shot dead in an alley of the municipality on August 14.
While the overwhelming majority still faults the police for not releasing any full-face pictures of Zhou, a group of photos reportedly showing Zhou's autopsy was released online.
The matter was further complicated after the Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau Tuesday reportedly told the Sichuan-based media they have not released such pictures to the public.
A Chongqing police officer surnamed Wu told the Global Times that generally police will not reveal autopsy pictures to the public, but it is possible that some police officers privately uploaded them to appease skeptical voices.
He added that the person in the pictures was Zhou.
Over the weekend, Web users dug up new "proof" showing the deceased was actually a plainclothes police officer from Changsha, Hunan Province. Web users posted a picture showing a man in police uniform bearing some resemblance to Zhou, claiming the man named Fang Bin was mistakenly gunned down while assisting his Chongqing colleagues in the manhunt.
The Changsha Public Security Bureau issued a statement on its official Weibo account on Monday, strongly denying the speculation, saying that the man in the picture was an officer surnamed Duan.
It also warned that people who deliberately cooked up rumors would be held accountable.
Song Yang, a Chongqing resident, told the Global Times Tuesday that discussions as to whether Zhou really had been killed were also underway among some locals.
Wu said that many Web users are maliciously fabricating stories to pick on the police.
"I think they are not targeting Chongqing police, but using the opportunity to air their dissatisfaction toward the government," Wu said.
The controversy around the issue deserves great attention from authorities at all levels, since the credibility of police tasked to uphold justice has been challenged, said Zhu Lijia, a professor of government administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
It took the Chongqing police five days to deny rumors around the case, which was criticized by many as lacking evidence and sincerity.
Meanwhile, no more details have been given, except for a brief press release issued the day Zhou was gunned down.