Chinese nanny sentenced to death for fire that killed a mother and three children files appeal
Concerns remain over prosecutorial approach, potential emergency response negligence, and building mismanagement
Shanghaiist.com
25 February 2018

A disgraced former nanny sentenced to death earlier this month for setting her employer’s Hangzhou apartment ablaze, killing a mother and three young children in the process, has filed an appeal with the Hangzhou Higher People’s Court, The Paper reported on Saturday.

In the early morning of June 22nd, reeling from a ruinous night of gambling, with just 0.85 rmb left in her bank account, 35-year-old Mo Huanjing hatched a scheme to recoup her losses. She would start a fire in the living room of her employer’s high-rise apartment, one of Hangzhou’s most valuable, then snuff it out and parlay the ensuing gratitude from the family into a financial reward to offset her steep debts.

It was not the first time Mo had attempted to wring money from her employer, Zhu Xiaozhen, to bankroll her gambling addiction. In little more than a year on the job, she pawned valuables from the apartment worth more than 180,000 rmb and borrowed 114,000 rmb from Zhu under the pretense of buying property in her hometown. All of it she squandered gambling.

After she was unable to contain the blaze, Mo fled the apartment, leaving Zhu and her three children behind. Zhu’s husband, Lin Shengbin, was away on business at the time.

the condo's fire readiness and emergency protocols

The compound’s fire readiness and emergency protocols proved incommensurate with the apartment’s luxury status. Lack of adequate water pressure and parking allowing a fire engine access to the highest floors slowed the response.

It took firefighters more than two hours to reach the victims, by which point it was too late to save them. Zhu, her seven-year-old daughter, and her two sons, aged four and ten, all died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mo’s legal defense hinged on the premise that the developer of the compound should also be held culpable for its negligence. The Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court was unsympathetic to that argument.

“The crime’s underlying motivation was despicable,” the court said in its decision. “Its consequences were extremely grave, it posed a critical danger to public safety and caused enormous social harm.”

“The demon has finally been punished by the law, the death penalty,” Lin posted on his Weibo account after the verdict was announced. “I’ve been tortured day and night these past 200 some days, and today, finally, there is a resolution.”

During the initial trial proceedings, Mo’s former lawyer, Dang Linshan, accused prosecutors of neglecting to collect adequate witness testimony from the emergency response team and guards present at the scene. Dang told Caixin that only two of 84 firefighters involved in the rescue operation provided statements to the authorities. He resigned in protest after the court denied his request for additional witness testimony, and Mo was subsequently assigned two court-appointed lawyers.

the building’s fire safety standards

Caixin’s investigative reporting on the rescue operation casts serious doubt on the emergency response team’s methods and the building’s fire safety standards. Several firefighting specialists called into question the approach taken by first responders. According to Caixin, “amid intense public scrutiny,” Hangzhou’s Public Security and Fire Prevention Bureau opened an investigation into “possible ‘irregularities’ in the rescue operation,” but has yet to disclose its findings.

The upscale neighborhood home to the Lin family’s building was one of a few in Hangzhou subject to a less stringent fire standard, by which only some apartments were randomly selected for safety checks. The Lin family’s compound was reportedly not one of them. Nor does it seem that the property management firm responsible for supervising the building administered regular inspections.

it had failed to conduct routine inspections.

One former employee of the company which manages the property told Caixin that the company conducted an inspection of all smoke alarms and sprinklers in the wake of the deadly fire, replacing malfunctioning ones and rushing to fill fire safety inspection logs that had been left blank as it had failed to conduct routine inspections.

All of these factors — lingering concerns about insufficient witness testimony, maladroit emergency response efforts, and building mismanagement— could come into play during the appeal.

Mobile phone records reviewed by the authorities revealed that shortly before she started the fire, Mo searched “Will arson lead to prison?” online. If the Intermediate People’s Court ruling is upheld, it will have led to death.

CondoMadness opinion
The nanny was stupid and selfish. No question of that. Yet, if the condo management did their job, the question is: Would the victims survived?

One former employee of the company which manages the property stated that the company conducted an inspection of all smoke alarms and sprinklers in the wake of the deadly fire, replacing malfunctioning ones and rushing to fill fire safety inspection logs that had been left blank as it had failed to conduct routine inspections.

Should the condo's management also be standing with Mo Huanjing in the Accused Box? Maybe as accessories to murder.

top  contents   chapter   previous  next