SEOUL, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) -- A man newly identified as a prime suspect in a series of rape-murders in the 1980s was belatedly found to have undergone police investigations on the cases in the past, police said Wednesday.
The infamous Hwaseong serial murders refer to 10 rapes and murders committed by an unidentified serial killer from September 1985-April 1991. The cold case has remained the highest-profile mystery criminal case in South Korea for more than three decades.
Recently, however, police pinpointed a 56-year-old man, surnamed Lee, through DNA tests as a prime suspect for at least three of the 10 deaths in Hwaseong, some 60 kilometers south of Seoul, although he is strongly denying the allegation.
According to police, Lee was pinpointed as a suspect after the occurrence of the sixth case, in which a 29-year-old woman became the victim at a hill in the city in May 1987.
At that time, police investigated him and submitted to their leadership a report that he was highly suspected of having committed the crime.
But police had to release him a few days later as there was no way to confirm whether bodily fluid collected from the scene was consistent with Lee's, as the level of the scientific investigative methods at that time was incapable of carrying out the job.
Moreover, the blood type and footprints of a suspect police secured were different from Lee's. The probable suspect's blood type was B, but Lee's was O.
South Korea had no DNA evidence technology until August 1991, four months after the 10th case occurred.
Police also interrogated Lee when the 8th and 10th cases happened, but found no conclusive evidence.
He was arrested in January 1994, when he raped and killed his sister-in-law, and has since been serving a life sentence.
Most of the police officers who investigated him in the past do not remember Lee's face.
"It might be difficult (for the investigators) to remember him as so many suspects underwent the probes ... It's very regrettable police had to stop probes into him because of insufficient forensic technology at that time," a police officer said.
More than 2 million policemen, a record number for a single case, were mobilized to track down the serial killer, but to no avail.
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