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Taiwan volunteer embalmer detained on murder charge

Man allegedly kills girlfriend, volunteer embalming team currently working on victims of Kaohsiung building fire

Chen Hsiu-chiang heads a team of volunteer embalmers in the wake of the 2021 Hualien train derailment.

Chen Hsiu-chiang heads a team of volunteer embalmers in the wake of the 2021 Hualien train derailment. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The head coordinator of a team of renowned volunteer embalmers that is helping victims of Kaohsiung's Cheng Chung Cheng building fire, has been detained following accusations of assault and murder.

Liberty Times reported that Chen Hsiu-chiang (陳修將) admitted to fighting with his long-term extramarital girlfriend, surnamed Hu (胡), during their stay at a motel in Changhua County, during which he pulled her by the hair and slammed her head into hard objects. Hu was discovered with injuries all over her body early Friday (Oct. 15) morning and was pronounced dead despite efforts to resuscitate her at the hospital.

The hospital called the police when medical staff noticed bruises all over Hu’s body. Also, there was a smell of charcoal, and brown liquid coming from her mouth and nose, according to CNA.

When police arrived at the scene, Chen calmly told them, “She was injured all over when I woke up, I don’t know what happened,” per Liberty Times.

After further questioning, however, Chen finally admitted that he and Hu had fought on Friday evening, but denied intending to murder her. Prosecutors detained him on a murder charge.

Chen, who faces assault and murder charges, had been staying at the motel with Hu since Oct. 8, per Liberty Times. CNA reported the couple checked into the motel to allegedly avoid Chen’s debtors, and that Hu was also Chen’s employee, in addition to being his girlfriend.

UDN reported that Chen is a mortician that heads a team of volunteer embalmers called “The 76 Monks Professional Embalming and Restoration Team” (76行者遺體美容專業修復團隊). It has volunteered its services to help victims of the Penghu TransAsia Airways Flight 222 accident, Kaohsiung gas explosion, earthquakes in Tainan and Hualien, as well as the Hualien train derailment earlier in 2021.

Team members were shocked at the news of his arrest, and spokesperson Wang Wei-chun (王薇君) told reporters that Chen is an active, caring person at work.

Wang confirmed the team’s Kaohsiung branch is working on some of the bodies from the Kaohsiung building fire. She worried that news of Chen's arrest might harm the team's reputation.

Chen told reporters in an interview that he was once a juvenile delinquent and took drugs, got in fights, robbed, and even ran a brothel, according to Liberty Times. He had been imprisoned six times in the past but redeemed himself through the craft of embalming.