Was Robert Xie really guilty of brutally killing five of his own family?

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On 18 July 2009, Min Lin and four members of his family, including his two young boys, were battered beyond recognition by someone with a hammer. All fingers pointed to Min’s resentful brother-in-law, Robert Xie. But was Robert really capable of carrying out such a heinous crime?

On the evening of 17 July 2009, Min Lin and his wife Lily were entertaining Lily’s brother Robert Xie and his wife Kathy.

Joined by Min’s two young sons Henry and Terry, they enjoyed quality time together in Merrylands, Sydney.

After a few hours, Robert and Kathy said their goodbyes and headed home. It was getting late, so the Lin family cleared up and went to bed.

Except, according to detectives, for Robert, 53…

Robert had recently become obsessed with the idea that the wider family favoured Min, 45, over him.

In his mind, they believed Min was not only a better and more successful businessman, but worked harder than Robert ever did.

The thought made Robert boil over with rage – and it seemed spending the evening with Min had made him feel even more inferior, and even more angry.

So, that night, as the Lin family slept, Robert had allegedly hatched a sickening plan.

According to prosecutors, he drugged Kathy to make sure she’d stay asleep, before creeping out of bed and walking in the dark back to the Lin family home.

When he arrived, he cut the electricity so nobody inside would be able to call for help.

Then he used a spare key the family had given him for emergencies to let himself in.

Tiptoeing to the main bedroom, Robert launched into a crazed attack, using a hammer as his weapon.

Prosecutors claimed he hit Min and Lily repeatedly, with all the force he could muster.

Within minutes, there was blood everywhere and the pair were dead. But just killing them wasn’t enough for Robert – he also used his weapon to smash their faces beyond all recognition.

Then it was the children’s turn. It was claimed Robert heartlessly beat to death Henry, 12, and Terry, 9, in the same way he’d slain their parents.

And the same fate befell the boys’ aunt, Irene Lin, who was staying with the family.

It was alleged that Robert then calmly headed home and got back into bed with Kathy, who was still fast asleep, before getting up a few hours later to clean his garage.

Soon after, Robert and Kathy got a phone call to say Min’s newsagent shop hadn’t opened as usual.

The couple drove to the Lin family home and went inside, Robert apparently shocked by the horrific scene he’d created just hours earlier.

Minutes later, a hysterical Kathy put in a call to the emergency services.

‘I’m not sure, but maybe someone killed… killed my brother’s family,’ she cried.

Kathy begged her husband to wait with her until police arrived, but he insisted on fleeing the scene.

Police quickly launched an investigation, and Robert and Kathy were happy to help with a public appeal for information.

But leads on the killer were scant, and it wasn’t until six months later that Robert became the prime suspect.

It didn’t sit right with officers that he’d reported seeing five bodies at the Lin family home, before the fifth was discovered.

Searching Robert’s home, officers found a small mark in his garage.

After DNA tests, prosecutors claimed it contained at least four of the victims’ blood.

Adding to their suspicions, detectives found bloody footprints in the Lin family home that matched the size and style of Asics trainers that Robert was known to wear.

Police decided to hide a pinhole camera in Robert’s kitchen and caught him cutting up possibly incriminating shoeboxes, then flushing them down the toilet. Hardly the behaviour of a man with a clear conscience.

Finally, nearly two years later, Robert Xie was arrested and charged with five counts of murder.

But, in his police interviews, he denied any involvement, claiming he’d watched cycling and cricket on TV that night, before going to bed with his wife and staying there.

Kathy backed up his story.

At court, the first two trials had to be aborted, and a third ended with a hung jury.

Robert was granted bail before a retrial last June.

With new defence lawyers on board, it was argued there was no way a lone man – in the pitch black – could have carried out the savage attacks without anyone escaping or raising the alarm.

Robert’s lawyers also insisted the shoe prints could have been left by a number of brands, and cast doubt over whether the stain found in Robert’s garage was blood.

They said there was no way Robert could be guilty.

The family funeral (Photo: PA Photos)

But was it enough to convince the jury? Or did they believe Robert was the sort of man who could slaughter his own family, including two young kids..?

Robert Xie was found guilty on all five counts of murder after 11 of the 12 jurors agreed on the verdict.

In January this year, he was handed five life sentences, with no possibility of parole.

The massacre has gone down as one of the most brutal in Australian history.

Justice Fullerton said the murders were ‘heinous in the extreme’, and were ‘a single episode of brutal and calculated, murderous violence’.

But Robert’s wife is sure her husband is innocent, and says he’ll appeal the sentence.

‘Robert did not kill my brother’s family. He is a loving and caring family man,’ she insisted.