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Vancouver cold case files: Murder on the edge of Chinatown

In 1985, a couple was abducted from their East Vancouver home and strangled to death.

At the start of 1985, things looked good for Jimmy Ming. At 29, he was the popular manager of the Yangtse Kitchen, the family restaurant that he had helped build from three tables on Denman Street into a thriving Robson Street business.

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The Mings were kidnapped and murdered in January 1985. Police handout photo printed in the Vancouver Sun

The family was originally from Taiwan and had settled in Strathcona in the early 1970s. Jimmy and his three brothers graduated from King George Secondary School. He married Lily, they had two small children and lived around the corner from his parents.

Jimmy typically worked 12 to 15 hour days at the Yangtse Kitchen. Lily learned English at night school, took care of the kids and worked in the restaurant one day a week. Everything seemed to be working out for the family. But by the end of January, Jimmy and Lily had been kidnapped from their home, the restaurant was closed, and the rest of the Ming family lived in fear for their own lives.

On Saturday, January 19, the Ming family was celebrating the wedding of Jimmy’s younger brother John to a Vietnamese woman. The celebration hadn’t gone smoothly. A fight broke out, and onlookers estimated later that it involved many of the 300 mainly Vietnamese guests. Jimmy was tired, and the couple left for their Princess Street home around 10:30 p.m.

The children spent the night with their grandparents.

Sometime after midnight, kidnappers approached the Ming home from the laneway, smashed a basement window, entered and abducted the couple.

The kidnapping was discovered that afternoon when Jimmy’s father Ping Chang Ming brought the children home and found his son and daughter-in-law missing and a ransom note asking for $700,000. He called police.

The kidnapping baffled friends and neighbours who couldn’t understand why the young couple was targeted. Jimmy drove an old station wagon and the home they’d owned for three years, was nice, but modest. Friends speculated that the kidnapping might have started with a robbery. The Mings, they said, may have been targeted because they were about to leave on holiday for Taiwan and may have had a large sum of cash handy in anticipation of the trip. More notes followed and the contents led police to suspect that the kidnapping has been the work of one of the Asian youth gangs terrorizing east Vancouver at the time.

Seven weeks after the Mings went missing, their bodies were found at the bottom of an embankment in dense bush off the Sea to Sky Highway near Porteau Cove.

An autopsy showed that the couple were murdered shortly after they were abducted from their house. They had been strangled.

If you have any information about these murders please call Vancouver Police 604-717-3321, or if you wish to remain anonymous, call crime stoppers 1-800-222-8477.

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The Mings were kidnapped from their Princess Street home, seen here in 2015 . Photo by Eve Lazarus

Eve Lazarus is a reporter and author, and she hosts and produces the Cold Case Canada true crime podcast. Her books include the B.C. bestsellers Murder by Milkshake; Blood, Sweat, and Fear; Cold Case Vancouver and Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City’s Hidden History. She blogs at Every Place has a Story.