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‘Grave robber’ held on charge of extortion

A man accused of stealing bone ash in an attempt to extort money has been arrested, Fengxian District prosecutors said yesterday.

They said the man surnamed Lu sneaked into a cemetery in Fengxian’s Haiwan area at 3pm on January 27, the day before Chinese New Year.

He hid in a toilet until he heard firecrackers go off at 7pm. He believed the noise would act as a distraction, enabling him to rob graves without being caught, prosecutors said.

They added he smashed up two tombs with a hammer, put bone ash in two plastic bags, and threw the urns into a nearby pond.

Based on information carved on the tombstone, one tomb owner ran a company before his death. Lu searched on the Internet and found the company’s phone number and then contacted the dead man’s relatives, and attempted to exhort 1.5 million yuan (US$217,220) from them.

He also demanded 2 million yuan from the operator of the cemetery, prosecutors said. Lu waited in a hotel room for several days but did not receive any money. So he left Shanghai and returned to his hometown in Weifang City, Shandong Province, where he was traced by Shanghai police.

Lu said he lacked money to pay medical bills for his 4-year-old son, he had decided to try his luck in Shanghai, prosecutors said. He will face an extortion charge, they added.

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