Lao's boyfriend Fa Ziying was executed in December 1999

SCMP reports that Chinese serial killer Lao Rongzhi has been caught after being on the run for 20 years.

Lao, now 45, was accused of murdering seven people including a three-year-old girl in 1999. At the time, 19-year-old Lao was a primary schoolteacher. She quit her job to engage in a life of crime over a three-year-period with her boyfriend Fa Ziying.

According to police, in 1996 Lao posed as a prostitute to lure in Fa’s first victim – Xiong. The couple stole the man’s jewellery and forced him to reveal his home address before killing him.

Lao and Fa went on to kill Xiong’s wife and three-year-old daughter before stealing over 200,000 yuan at their home.

One year later the couple kidnapped and killed two prostitutes, stealing their watches, phones and money. In 1999, the couple moved to Hefei, Anhui and murdered two more people.

In one incident, the couple had built a cage at their home and lured a man named Yin into the flat and held him for ransom. Fa then tricked a carpenter into visiting their home and killed him in front of Yin to force him to hand over the 300,00-yuan ransom.

Yin’s wife contacted the police when Fa went to collect the ransom money. Police arrested Fa after a shoot-out in which he suffered a wound in the thigh.

In July 1999, Lao escaped when her boyfriend Fa was caught by police in Hefei, Anhui. Fa, 35, refused to give up his girlfriend and gave the police false information that helped Lao escape.

Fa had already served eight years in jail for armed robbery. He was executed in December 1999.

On Friday, police arrested Lao at a shopping centre in Xiamen, Fujian, where she worked selling watches. Lao was arrested as part of Operation Cloud Sword – a national operation that targets fraudsters and fugitives.

Fa’s defence lawyer, Yu Xi, said that “his refusal to cooperate and his cover-up provided time for Lao to escape”.

He added that Fa felt he was only “committing a sin” when he killed the three-year-old girl. “He told me his best ending would be to go straight from the crime scene to the execution site,” Yu said.