Two Chinese graduates who were brutally murdered in their flat may have been killed by a gang of thieves targeting foreign students, it has been reported.
Detectives said Xi Zhou and her boyfriend Zhen Xing Yang, both 25, may have been the victims of Chinese organised crime groups operating across the UK.
The couple's mutilated bodies were found in separate rooms of the ground-floor flat on Croydon Road, in Newcastle's West End, on August 9.
Police believe Mr Yang, known as Kevin, was tortured for up to an hour before he was hacked and stabbed to death by his killers, who then turned on his girlfriend. Their cat is also thought to have been drowned by the killers.
Det Supt Steve Wade, of Northumbria Police, said police were looking into the possibility that the couple were killed by a criminal gang for financial gain.
He said the couple could have been "sitting ducks" for gangs who believed they had been sent to study in the UK by wealthy families.
"We're quite keen to explore another potential motive - whether it was linked to some Chinese organised crime groups targeting foreign students or young people in the UK," Mr Wade told the The Journal newspaper.
"The major line is looking at the targeting of young people throughout the UK, possibly for monetary gain or robbery."
He added that a man who rented a room from the couple at the beginning of August had still not been traced or come forward.
After the murders it emerged that the couple were involved in an internet betting scam and the trading of fraudulent documents, such as travelling visas and professional qualifications.