A suspected murderer on the run for 16 years in China found refuge in Buddhist temples, eventually rising to become an abbot, AFP reported.
Zhang Liwei was detained by police earlier this month on suspicion of stabbing three people to death with accomplices in 2000, the report said, citing Beijing News.
After the killings in his home province of Heilongjiang in northeastern China, Zhang fled nearly 2,000 kilometers south to Anhui Province, changing his name and finding work as a temple cook and ticket-seller, it said.
Later he moved to the Longxing Temple in Anhui's Fengyang County, shaving his own head and proclaiming himself a monk.
He became a member of a local political consultative congress — an organ of the county government — and two years ago the monks elected him abbot, according to the Beijing News.
He was only unmasked when he applied for a passport to travel abroad and submitted his fingerprints — which allegedly matched those of the wanted man.
The monks appreciated his efforts to improve their living conditions and buildings, the report said, adding that the temple had donated around a million yuan (US$150,000) to charitable causes in recent years and Zhang was supporting two rural orphans financially.
But a neighborhood nun was unmoved.
“The Buddha tells us to be contrite,” she said. “He should have turned himself in.”