Chinese authorities suspect that the woman who gouged out a 6-year-old boy's eyes was his aunt who later killed herself, state media said Wednesday, adding a surprising twist to a gruesome case with conflicting details.
Police in the city of Linfen in northern Shanxi province have identified the boy's aunt Zhang Huiying as a suspect because the boy's blood was found on her clothes, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Six days after the boy was attacked, Zhang killed herself by jumping into a well.
Initial reports said the boy, Guo Bin, was lured by an unidentified woman with a strange accent into a field on Aug. 24 where she used an unspecified tool to gouge out his eyes.
Xinhua did not cite a possible motive for the aunt to attack the boy. The police finding seemed to conflict with the family's initial comments on the boy's assailant, which cited him as saying that the woman spoke with an accent from outside the area and had hair that was dyed blonde.
The boy's mother said in a phone interview that the boy was disoriented after the traumatizing attack.
"It is easy to understand that he wasn't clear about the situation," Wang Wenli told The Associated Press. "He said the accent was from another region, but he later amended that. He then said it was a local accent, but he did not say that it was his aunt."
One of the case investigators reached by phone, a police officer in Fenxi county surnamed Liu, referred only to the Xinhua report and refused to answer further questions, saying he was not authorized to speak to the media. Calls to the city and county's police bureaus' propaganda departments rang unanswered.
State media previously had raised the possibility that the boy's corneas were taken for sale because of a donor shortage in China, but police said the boy's eyeballs were found at the scene, and that the corneas hadn't been removed. At the time, though, Guo's father told The Associated Press the family had not actually seen the eyeballs.
The attack horrified the Chinese public, and added to outrage over violence against children in the wake of a scandal earlier in the year over a spate of cases of school teachers sexually abusing young girls.
Chinese Internet users expressed dismay as they circulated reports of the attack on the boy and links to footage showing him writhing in pain on a hospital trolley with bandages around his head, and his parents, both farmers, crying.
Media reports cited police as saying the aunt had argued with the boy's parents over how much money each family should contribute to the care of his grandfather, who was paralyzed.
But Wang, the boy's mother, told the AP that reports of a dispute between the families were false.
"There was no dispute between us and the aunt," Wang said. "I have heard that someone said we had a dispute over taking care of the grandfather, but that is just a lie."