Scenes from a family life ended too soon . . . from far left, Min, Terry and Henry Lin; Min and Yun Li Yin on holiday; Henry Lin at school.
A senior local politician says he believes the Lin family was brutally murdered by professional killers in a dispute over money.
Sometime between midnight and 6.00am on July 18 this year a killer or killers entered the Lin home in Epping, in Sydney’s north-west, and murdered all five family members.
Mr Lin, his wife Yunli, their two sons – Henry, 12, and Terry, 9 – and their aunt Irene were all beaten to death with blunt, heavy weapons.
Police have struggled to find a motive for the killings and the murders are yet to be solved.
The state member for Epping, Greg Smith, has seen many crimes. For over 20 years he was a criminal prosecutor and worked as a senior lawyer with the New South Wales and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Smith has told the ABC’s Lateline program that he’s never seen a crime this brutal and callous before and is convinced the Lin family was targeted by an organised crime group. He also believes the killings were about money.
“I think the thing that affects the people most about the Lin family murders is that it was just so violent and nobody can believe that a person could do that to a fellow human being, and particularly to children,” he said.
“I think the whole thing sends out a message, ‘don’t mess with us’ and it’s probably over money. I mean, what other harm could Mr Lin do to anybody?”
The power to the house was cut and the killer or killers entered the home without breaking doors or windows. Neighbours are reported to have heard nothing.
Min Lin ran a newsagency business in Epping and was a familiar face in the community.
Mr Smith knew Mr Lin and used to buy his newspaper from him.
He says five months after the killings, the local community is still living in fear.
“I think a lot of people, particularly older people, are still very scared,” he said.
“People are putting locks on their doors and security grills and windows because you just don’t know what’s happened, what the motive is and whether they would come again.”
Highly planned attack
Dr Michael Diamond is a forensic psychologist who has worked with the New South Wales and Federal Police.
He produces criminal profiles for the police and believes that a group of men carried out the murders. He says the attack shows signs of being highly planned.
“To have done this in such a cold systematic way, and to have included as victims two young boys and to have conducted the whole operation of the killing with such clinical purpose, to me points to a third party, rather than to someone who has direct emotional involvement in the motive of the crime,” he said.
Dr Diamond believes the killings were designed to send a message to Sydney’s Chinese community.
“I would look very carefully at what sort of statement was being made to which group and clearly this relates to a particular group in the community,” he said.
“So I would interpret what I would know to be a communication of some power to a particular group.”
Links to China
Last week the New South Wales Police confirmed that investigators are considering financial leads in China.
Professor Rod Broadhurst from the Australian National University in Canberra is a criminologist who has worked in both Hong Kong and China. Fifteen years ago he set up a homicide monitoring database in Hong Kong to help the police solve Triad murders.
He says large amounts of Chinese money are often laundered through investments in Western countries.
“There is a huge amount of money, illicitly earned money, flowing out of China and also a massive amount of tax evasion,” he said.
“There has been a considerable amount of violence associated with that kind of activity, particularly when one party does not meet the expectations of a contract that might have been entered into.”
Professor Broadhurst says that because killers can be sentenced to death in China, people who plan to commit murders are often reluctant to leave any potential witnesses alive.
Mr Smith, meanwhile, believes the Lin family murders were either the result of an extortion attempt or a dispute involving money from China.
“I’ve heard a little bit about extortion in ethnic communities, nothing specific in Epping, and the other possibility is that money was coming from China,” he said.
“Whether he [Mr Lin] has been lent money or whether he is placing money for other people, who knows?”
Mr Lin owned a house and a number of investment properties in Sydney.
In 2002 he bought his newsagency business in Epping, and in 2005 he purchased a commercial property in Epping for $920,000.
The New South Wales Police today said the investigation was ongoing and urged anyone with information to come forward.
The only surviving member of the Lin family, 15-year-old Brenda, was away from home on a high school trip to New Caledonia when the murders took place.
A trust fund has been set up to help pay for her education.
Mr Smith says the local community is rallying behind Brenda.
“The community response has been magnificent,” he said.
“First and foremost a number of floral tributes and messages that have been left outside the shop by people of all walks of life [and] the meeting they had at the North Epping Anglican Church a few days after the murders was packed out.
“There is a fundraising appeal through the Bendigo Bank and the Australian Chinese Charity Foundation, which has raised quite a lot of money to support her in the future.”