Min Lin and his wife Lily Lin ran a successful family-owned newsagent in Sydney, but when their usually busy shop didn’t open for business one Saturday morning in July 2009, something was amiss. When Lily’s sister, Kathy, began receiving calls from curious customers, she suspected something was off.
When Kathy and her husband Robert Xie arrived at the Lin family residence in the quiet suburb of North Epping, the front door was unlocked. Upstairs in the bedroom she found a horrifying scene. Both Min and Lily were drenched in a pool of blood, bludgeoned to death by a weapon later described as “hammer-like”. In the next room, they found Kathy and Lily’s sister, Irene, who had met the same awful fate. Both Min and Lily’s young sons, 12-year-old Henry and nine-year-old Terry were not spared either. They too were brutally murdered in similar manner in their bedroom. Blood splattered all over the wall indicated that a great struggle had taken place. Only the Lins’ daughter Brenda was spared, as she was away on a school excursion in New Caledonia at the time.
Days after the incident, the husband and wife were finally composed enough to make emotional public pleas, calling for support to help solve the murders. Brenda, the only surviving child, went to live with the Xies. However, the lack of strong leads as well as the nature of the vicious attacks suggested a more personal motive than a simple burglary gone wrong. The authorities turned to family members and possible connections.
Robert Xie, a former Ear, Nose and Throat specialist in China before moving to Melbourne in 2006, was one of the early suspects. According to The Daily Telegraph, Xie had opened a restaurant in Melbourne but when his new venture soon failed, he and his wife Kathy moved to Sydney and had been unemployed ever since. Various reports suggested that Xie was close to his extended family.
It would take over a year for any breakthrough evidence to surface. During a forensic examination of Xie’s garage in May 2010, experts found a tiny stain on the floor of the unkempt garage, known as ‘stain 91’.
According to The Australian, one of the forensic experts trained in bloodstain pattern analysis was convinced that Stain 91 looked like a “transfer stain” – the kind of stain produced from coming into contact with an object such as “clothing, a weapon or a bag” wet with blood. Lab tests proved that the tiny mark was consistent with the DNA of the slain Lin family members. Xie was subsequently arrested in May 2011, while his wife Kathy maintained his innocence.
It took four trials spanning over seven and a half years before Xie was convicted. The first trial was aborted when a possible sexual motive emerged, but the victim refused to be identified. The second trial was halted when the judge fell ill while the third trial ended in a hung jury. Finally in 2017, Xie was found guilty of murder. After the verdict was announced, Xie proclaimed, “I did not murder the Lin family. I am innocent.”
The Crown suggested that Xie had created the perfect alibi by sedating his wife before committing the crime, leading her to think that he had been in bed asleep at the time of the murders. Xie’s apparent motive was rage over his perceived “subordinate status” within his wife’s family.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, prosecutor Tanya Smith said at the onset of the trial, “These perceptions invoked intense emotions on his behalf including anger and resentment and that the accused directed these emotions at Min and his wife.” She added, “Also, he was hurting the people that had not given him the respect and admiration he believed he was entitled to.” But it wasn’t resentment alone that drove him to kill. His teenage niece, Brenda Lin, may have provided another motive.
After eight years of silence, Brenda now in her mid-20s, revealed her uncle’s inappropriate behaviour towards her before and after the murders in an emotional interview on Australian television. She claimed that the abuse had escalated after she moved in with the Xies. This could explain the timing of the murders, and why Xie carried out the attacks while Brenda was away and was thus spared.
At the NSW Supreme Court, the 54-year-old was handed five life sentences in 2017, one for each member of the Lin family that he had slain.
Brenda who was seated only a few seats away from her uncle, addressed the court in a moving statement stating that she will now have to spend the rest of her life without her loving family by her side.
The Expert Opinion
What the expert says: “It’s clear that the ultimate motive was expressive, in which rage and jealousy were the precursors,” says Dr Mohammad Rahim. “This jealous component triggered anger in Xie to the extent of committing murder without any remorse or guilt. An important clue that can be associated with this expressive motive is the method and type of injuries. Bludgeoning someone to death can be indications or the outcome of uncontrolled emotions.”