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The Lin Family Murders: What Was The Motive Behind Their Gruesome Deaths?

15-year-old Brenda Lin studied at Cheltenham Girls High School and was away on a school trip, while the rest of her family members were brutally murdered in their home in North Epping, NSW Australia on 18 July, 2009. 

Unlike the story of a young girl who went missing, this is a story about a daughter who was the only survivor. Brenda learned of her family's murder through an article on Facebook. And it's safe to say, life after this incident was never the same.

Was it pure luck Brenda wasn't home during the attacks? Or did the killer have an ulterior motive?

What Happened On The Night Of The Murder?

Brenda’s parents Min “Norman” Lin and Yun “Lily” Lin, ran a newspaper agency in their home. When they didn't open on July 18, 2009, Min Lin's sister and husband went to check on them at 9 am that morning.  The front door was unlocked, so they entered the house and went upstairs. 

What they saw was horrifying. Blood was splattered across the walls and their bodies had been bludgeoned. Kathy called the authorities while her husband, Robert, quickly left to tell his parents the news. 

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Did The Killer Know The Family?

When authorities arrived at the crime scene, they discovered the bodies of 45-year-old Min Lin, his 43-year-old wife Yun Lin, their 12-year-old son Henry, nine-year-old Terry, and Yun Lin’s sister Irene Lin who was 39-years-old. 

It was clear the family had died during the early morning. The victim’s faces had been so badly disfigured with an object they were unrecognizable. It was also determined that four of the victims had been asphyxiated. Authorities also took note of a bloody shoe print which was approximately an 8.5 to 10.5 US shoe size.

As the police searched the area, they realized the murderer most likely didn't break in because there was no evidence of forced entry. This suggested the killer had probably used a key to enter. 

Police suspected the killer knew the house well, including where the circuit breaker was. Most striking was that Brenda’s room had been untouched indicating the killer most probably knew that she was away.

An Unexpected Revelation 

Since Brenda lost her entire family and she was still a minor, her aunt, Kathy, and uncle, Robert Xie took over custody. After a month went by and there were no signs of who committed the murder, authorities decided to conduct a secret investigation called ‘Strike Force Norburn’.

While investigating the case, authorities noticed that while Kathy had called the police on the day of the murders, Robert had left her alone in the house even though she begged him not to. While she was speaking to the police, she was saying something to him in Cantonese, and this was later translated as her telling him not to leave her alone.

Kathy was still in shock and very scared that the killer might still be in the home. But since Robert left Kathy alone, investigators suspected Robert must've known she'd be safe.

As part of the secret investigation, they placed a pinhole camera in the Xie’s home. This camera picked up footage of Robert cutting a size 9.5 ASICS shoebox, then disposing of it by first soaking it in a bucket of water and flushing it down the toilet. Investigators told Kathy the shoe prints they found in Lin’s home matched an ASICS brand.

When the Xie's home was searched they found a bloodstain on the floor in the garage which later proved to be the DNA of four of the five victims. They also noticed that Robert cleaned his garage the same morning the murders took place.

Arrest & Trial

Robert Xie was arrested at his home on May 5, 2011. He pleaded not guilty but there was enough evidence to charge him for the murder of five victims.

During the trial, it was revealed that before he migrated to Melbourne in 2006, he was an ENT doctor in China. In Melbourne, he tried to open a restaurant but failed and he relocated to Sydney. 

Robert was embarrassed when it came to his in-laws who were more successful than him, which was one of the motives behind the murder. But the other reason was that he was sexually attracted to Brenda. Brenda finally told investigators that Robert had been molesting her even before the murders and once she was in his home it only got worse.

At the trial, it was revealed Robert told an inmate that he had murdered the family in the early hours of the morning, after sedating his wife so that she wouldn’t know he was missing. Robert had four trials and he was finally found guilty for the murder of the five people and sentenced to five consecutive life sentences in prison. This would be without the possibility of parole. 

At his sentencing on 12 January 2017, Brenda said, “I do not even know how to begin to express how the murder of my immediate family have impacted my life – there are not enough words to describe the pain and suffering caused me and those around me.”

She went on to say, "To this day, my biggest regret was not hugging (my father) and telling him I loved him, to say thank you for being an amazingly loving and caring parent. It has been seven-and-a-half years since I have lost my family. That's seven-and-a-half years without a loving mother, seven-and-a-half years without a loving father." While Brenda would do anything to have her family back, it's shocking how others wanted to get rid of their parents

In February 2021 Robert lost an appeal. His wife Kathy still believes he was wrongfully accused. Kathy's words are, “He is a loving and caring family man.” According to a report by the Daily Mail, she said, “He is innocent. We believe that he is innocent. We keep fighting for him.

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