A Chinese court has rescinded a life sentence handed to man who killed a loan shark who had sexually taunted his mother, in a case that has made national headlines and ignited heated online debate.

The government has promised to redress miscarriages of justice after several high profile cases, including wrongful executions of people later proven to be not guilty.

But the case of Yu Huan, who on Friday had his life sentence cut to five years following a retrial, has also prompted debate about whether widespread public anger over the initial verdict had a bearing on the much more lenient final outcome.

Yu, from Liaocheng in Shandong province, was sentenced to life in jail in February after he used a knife to attack four of his mother’s creditors who taunted and exposed themselves to his mother while demanding a 1 million yuan ($146,000) debt be repaid in April last year, according to state media. One of the creditors died.

In demanding repayment, one of the creditors exposed his “nether regions” and “gyrated” in front of Yu’s mother while flicking cigarette butts at her and forcing her to smell Yu’s shoes, the Shandong High Court said in its judgement.

Widely referred in media as the “Dishonoured Mother case”, the initial sentence evoked widespread sympathy for Yu, whose defence of his mother resonated in a country where filial piety is considered a core value.

The court said that while Yu acted in part to protect his mother, a five-year sentence was appropriate given his actions went beyond reasonable self-defence, and that he later resisted arrest when police arrived.

The verdict was a top-trending topic on the Weibo social media platform. While many users were pleased the court took into account he was protecting his mother, some felt a five-year jail term was too lenient.

“Public opinion has to an extent influenced the judiciary,” one Weibo user said.

Acknowledging the interest in the case, the court released a statement explaining how it reached its verdict.

“The media coverage of the Yu Huan case has ignited widespread attention,” it said.

“Today, the Shandong High Court handed down its verdict in accordance with the law, and while the retrial process has ended, we will continue to seriously reflect on and sum up the case.”

Reuters

An emergency response volunteer went into cardiac arrest while helping to remove bodies from the scene of a “horrific” car accident in which two teenage siblings and a 70-year-old man were killed.

Eric Neibaur, 15, and his 13-year-old sister Lauren Neibaur died when their pick-up truck collided with Jay Lanningham’s vehicle on a major road in the US state of Idaho.

Police said a member of the local search and rescue unit had to be revived with a portable defibrillator after his heart stopped at the scene of the crash, reported the Idaho State Journal.

The emergency responder spent three nights in hospital but was discharged on Wednesday.

Local sheriff Lorin Nielsen told the newspaper the difference between this accident and others he had dealt with was that “the damage was so horrific and there weren’t any skid marks.”

“All of us have seen death before, but when we have kids that are about the same age it really hits home a bit more than anything else does,” he said.

Eric and Lauren were driving a short way behind their mother and stepfather on Sunday – Father’s Day – after spending the weekend camping and riding dirt bikes together, according to the Journal.

The teenagers’ parents were checking on them in their rear view mirrors, but realised there was a problem when they lost sight of the siblings’ red Chevrolet truck.

The third victim of the crash, Mr Lanningham, was with a young female passenger who suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to hospital where she was said to be in a critical condition, but expected to survive.

The siblings’ father, also called Eric Neibaur, said the pair had “loved to torture each other” but had also “loved each other very much”.