A missing 9-year-old Chinese girl, whose disappearance gripped the country, was found dead after a week of searching

A photo of Zhang Zixin shared by the police in Xiangshan County, China.

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A photo of Zhang Zixin shared by the police in Xiangshan County, China.
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Xiangshan police

  • A 9-year-old girl has been found dead after a week of desperate searching in China.
  • The disappearance of Zhang Zixin gripped the country, sparking theories about trafficking and cults.
  • Zhang disappeared while she was staying with her grandparents and was last seen with a couple who had been renting rooms in the house where she lived, the police said.
  • Zhang’s father said the couple had managed to trick her grandparents into letting them take her on a trip.
  • The couple were found dead on July 8. The police said they died by suicide.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

A 9-year-old girl whose disappearance gripped China was found dead in the East China Sea after a week of desperate searching.

Zhang Zixin was last seen on July 7, the police in Xiangshan County said. A huge search involved speedboats and sonar equipment before the police announced on Sunday that her body had been discovered.

The police said that Zhang was last seen with a couple who had been renting rooms in the house where she lived with her grandparents. The couple’s bodies were found on July 8, and the police said they died by suicide, the South China Morning Post reported.

The police said that Zhang’s body showed no signs of violence but that her death could not be considered an accident, CNN reported.

Authorities had described Zhang as having long, braided hair and red-rimmed glasses and said she was wearing a white dress on the day she disappeared.

The East China Sea.

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The East China Sea.
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Google Maps/Business Insider

Theories about sex trafficking and cults had circulated in China, but authorities rejected the rumors, the Post reported.

Zhang’s father told the Dushi Kuaibao newspaper that the couple had tricked his parents, Zhang’s grandparents, into letting them take her away, CNN reported. He was working in a different city while Zhang lived with her grandparents.

It is common in China for children to live with their grandparents as their parents work in other parts of the country, typically more industrial areas.

Zhang’s father said that the couple, identified by the police as Liang and Xie, had told him they wanted her to be the flower girl at their wedding, CNN reported. He said they took her on July 4 even though he had said no.

A photo shared by the Xiangshan police of Zhang with the couple.

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A photo shared by the Xiangshan police of Zhang with the couple.
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Xiangshan County police

He said they kept in touch via the Chinese social-media platform WeChat for three days, speaking last on July 7.

Zhang’s family reported her missing on July 8.

According to the Straits Times, the search operation comprised 500 people, including police officers, local fishers, and volunteers, and was livestreamed by media outlets.

The Straits Times said that Zhang’s father wrote on Weibo, another Chinese social media website: “While we are not fated to be father and daughter in this life, I hope she will still be my daughter in the next life, so I can take care of her.”