On July 18, 2009, at 9 am, Kathy Xie went to visit her brother Norman Lin and his wife Lily Lin at their family-operated business; a newspaper agency. Kathy was surprised to find it was still closed. Feeling concerned, she grabbed her husband Robert and together they walked over to the Lin home. When Kathy entered the home via the unlocked front door, she never expected to find the walls covered with blood-splatter and her brother’s entire family dead.
Robert quickly left and went to his in-laws' home to let them know what they had just discovered while a frantic and terrified Kathy stayed behind to call the police. When investigators arrived at the Lin home in the beautiful Sydney suburb of North Epping, one thing immediately stuck out to them: their 15-year-old daughter Brenda Lin’s bedroom.
Brenda was away on a school trip at the time of the murders and it had appeared as if hers was the only room in the entire house the killer didn’t enter. It was almost as if the killer knew that Brenda was not going to be there that night.
Kathy Xin pulled out her cellphone and frantically called the police. She was in such a state of shock she was barely able to explain what she had just seen to the dispatcher. After calming her down, she was finally able to sputter the words, “I think someone murdered my brother’s family.”
Authorities removed five bodies from the home; Kathy’s brother Norman, his wife Lily, their two sons 12-year-old Henry and 9-year-old Terry and Lily's sister, Irene. All five of the victims had been bludgeoned with a hammer. Four had also been strangled.
There was no sign of forced entry and nothing was missing, therefore burglary was ruled out early in the investigation. Twenty-four bloody footprints were found throughout the home, all of them were the same size. This led investigators to believe that whoever killed the Lin family had acted alone. Blood splatters proved Brenda’s two young brothers fought back against their attacker.
Brenda found out about the murders through an article a friend had sent her. She immediately returned home and it wasn’t until she saw her aunt Kathy’s grief-stricken face that she knew it was true.
Understandably, Norman and Kathy’s parents were completely distraught upon receiving the horrific news. They had lost so many members of their family all at once and could not comprehend why. What kind of monster could kill an entire family, let alone two defenceless children in the safety of their own beds?
After the murders, Kathy and Robert took over the Lins’ newspaper agency business and Brenda was placed into their custody. Robert was noted as being extremely eager to gain custody of Brenda. In a shocking of turn events, investigators would soon learn why.
A month after the attack there were still no leads so authorities decided to create Strike Force Noburn, a secret operation implemented to investigate the Lin family murders. Investigators on the case immediately noticed something unusual about Kathy’s phone call to the police. While the dispatcher was attempting to calm Kathy down, she could be heard frantically screaming something in Cantonese to Robert. Upon translation, detectives learned she was begging him not to leave her in the house by herself, which he ultimately did.
This was important for one reason: Kathy was clearly terrified, she did not know who had killed the Lin family or whether they were still in the home. Detectives questioned why Robert felt comfortable enough to leave his wife in the home by herself and why he was not worried about her safety. They theorized that perhaps Robert knew Kathy wasn’t in danger because he was the killer.
Investigators told Kathy the bloody shoe prints matched sneakers made by the brand ASICS. They then planted a pinhole camera inside Kathy and Robert’s home and before they knew it, they had surveillance footage of Robert cutting up an ASICS shoe box, soaking the cardboard in a bucket and flushing the pieces down the toilet. Robert did all of this in front of his wife, who has always supported her husband’s innocence.
A year after the murders, investigators believed they had enough evidence to retain a warrant to Robert and Kathy’s home. A search of the garage was conducted and a dark stain was discovered on the ground. It was sent in for testing and was found to contain the DNA of four of the five victims.
Detectives arrested Robert Xie on the morning of May 5, 2011, at his home. He was charged with five counts of murder and he pleaded not guilty. Robert was noted as being eerily calm during his arrest and not at all surprised.
At first, Brenda could not accept that her uncle may have been responsible for the cold-blooded execution of her family. To her, Robert was a family member and family members are there to protect one another. However, as the evidence against her uncle began stacking up, she realized it wasn’t as impossible as it may have seemed.
It was then Brenda told investigators her uncle Robert had been molesting her far before the murders and that it had only gotten worse after she moved into his home.
During the murder trial, it was revealed Robert had confessed to the murders to a fellow inmate. According to the inmate, Robert said he sedated his wife and then slipped out of bed undetected in the early hours of July 18th. Once he arrived at the Lin home, he cut off their electricity before attacking and killed each member of the Lin family, one by one.
To prosecutors, Robert’s motive was clear. Robert, a former doctor from China who had a myriad of failed businesses under his belt, was envious of the Lins’ successful family business. In addition, he had formed a sick and depraved sexual obsession with his young niece. By executing the Lins, Robert believed he would get everything he ever wanted; Brenda under his roof within his reach, and the Lins’ family business. Unfortunately for Robert, his own carelessness would bring his sadistic victory to a screeching halt.
After several delays and four trials, Robert Xie was found guilty on five counts of murder and was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.
He lost an appeal in February of 2021.
Sources: ABC News, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wikipedia
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