BUNGLING police in South Korea have apologised after finally identifying a serial killer after 30 years – and imprisoning the wrong man for two decades.
Lee Chun-jae, now 57, raped and murdered 10 women in the rural parts of Hwaseong, south of Seoul between the years of 1986 and 1991.
The victims ranged from age 14-71, had all been strangled and some of them mutilated using forks, umbrellas or razors.
He managed to evade police attention despite his long list victims and then cops wrongly imprisoned Yoon Sun-yeo in 1989.
He was charged with the murder of one of Chun-jae's raped and murdered victims, a teenage girl.
But after being released on parole in 2009, the innocent Sun-yeo requested a retrial after police reopened their investigation into the murder.
Provincial police chief Bae Yong-ju said sorry after the police's wayward investigations caused the wrong man to go to prison.
He said: "I bow my head down and offer apologies to the victims of Lee Chun-jae's crimes, the surviving families and everyone who suffered damage due to the police investigation, including Mr Yoon."
Police finally discovered the truth after retrieving new DNA samples using old evidence – including a victim's underwear – which they linked to Chun-jae.
He confessed to all 10 Hawseong murders under questioning and four others – including an eight-year-old girl.
He also admitted to raping nine other women.
GETTING AWAY WITH IT
But in a cruel twist, he will not face punishment for any of them as the length ofinvestigation means the statue of limitation – the time in which you can be prosecuted for a crime – has ran out.
However, the killer is already on a life sentence after raping and murdering his sister-in-law in 1994 – now known to be his 15th victim.
When he confessed to the murders, he apologised to the victims and those who had been wrongly caught up in his crimes, including innocent Yoon Sun-yeo.
But police officer Bae Yong-ju was not convinced he had any regrets.
He said: "His psychopathic tendencies were evident, as he was unable to empathise with the victims' pain and sufferings at all and continuously showed off his crimes."
21,000 people had been investigated trying to find the killer and 20,000 fingerprints were inspected.
A record number police had also been enlisted in the hunt.
The wide-ranging investigation inspired Oscar-winning South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho's 2003 acclaimed movie "Memories of Murder".
At least four people are reported to have taken their own lives in the 1990s after being suspected, and allegedly abused, by police while they were investigating the original case.
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