Trio in China arrested after reports of ‘drugging and dismemberment’ of murdered Hong Kong-based Hitchin lecturer

Hilary St John Bower, originally from Hitchin, was found dead in China on Wednesday.

Hilary St John Bower, originally from Hitchin, was found dead in China on Wednesday. - Credit: Archant

A Chinese woman who had been romantically involved with a Hong Kong-based expat lecturer from Hitchin has been arrested with two men over his murder – with local media reporting that he was drugged and then dismembered.

Hilary St John Bower, 60, was found dead on Wednesday. It is alleged that the trio drugged and killed him, then cut up his body and drove hundreds of miles to bury it in their home province.

Police in mainland China said that a 38-year-old woman surnamed Xu had been in custody with two suspected accomplices since April 8, accused of murdering Hong Kong-based academic Mr Bower over an ‘emotional dispute’.

The police added that Mr Bower had lived with the woman for 17 years.

Mr Bower’s body was found last Wednesday, three weeks after he was reported missing. Police say he was killed in Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong, shortly after crossing on March 22.

He had taught English at Hong Kong Polytechnic University since the last days of British administation in 1996.

When he crossed into mainland China on March 22, he was expected by a younger woman in Shenzhen, Shi Xiumei, with whom he had an eight-year-old son. She raised the alarm on March 30.

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Hong Kong media reported that for unclear reasons, Xu turned herself in to police in Dongguan – an industrial town about 50 miles north-west of Shenzhen – on April 7.

A Chinese police statement said that Xu, reported to be originally from the central Chinese province of Hubei, had conspired with two younger men, identified by media as her nephew and boyfriend, but it remains unclear how Mr Bower died.

Acting on information provided by Xu, police found his body buried near Xianning in Hubei province, and returned it to Shenzhen for a post-mortem.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is aware of the situation, and Mr Bower’s brother Robin has flown to China to meet investigators.

Murders of foreigners are rare in China, so the case has won considerable interest among expatriates there.