Chinese police have arrested three men for killing two young women to sell their corpses as "ghost brides" for dead single men, a Chinese newspaper reported, warning the dark custom might have claimed many other victims.
Yang Donghai, a 35-year-old farmer in western China's Shaanxi province, confessed to killing a woman bought from a poor family for 12,000 yuan ($1,545) last year.
She thought she was being sold into an arranged marriage, but Yang killed her in a gully and sold her corpse for 16,000 yuan, the Legal Daily reported on Thursday. He and two accomplices then killed a prostitute and sold her for 8,000 yuan before police caught them.
"I did it for the money; it was a quick buck," Yang said, according to the paper. "If I hadn't slipped up early, I planned to do a few more."
The women were victims of an old belief, still alive in the yellow-earth highlands of western China, that young men who die unmarried should go to their graves accompanied by deceased women who will be their wives in the afterlife. Often these women die natural deaths.
Police in Yanan, the poor and dusty corner of Shaanxi where Chairman Mao Zedong nurtured his Communist revolution, said the dark trade went beyond these cases.
"The actual number is far from just these," the paper said.
Yang and two helpers sold the bodies to Li Longsheng, an undertaker who police said specialized in buying and selling the dead women for "ghost weddings." It was unclear what happened to Li.