Thursday, February 29, 2024

Court hears detailed timeline in murder investigation

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Crime scene examiners found nine areas that appeared to be of blood inside Elizabeth Zhong’s Sunnyhills home after she was reported missing in November 2020. Times file photo Wayne Martin

East Auckland businesswoman Elizabeth (Ying) Zhong’s body was found inside her blood-stained vehicle more than seven hours after police located it parked around the corner from her home.

Found inside it by police also were the silver suitcase that had been placed on top of her along with a blue face towel, a pad or piece of paper and a white towel, all of which were blood-soaked.

Those were among the details heard on May 16 at the start of week four of the murder trial of the man police allege is responsible for her violent death, her former business partner Fang Sun.

Sun has pleaded not guilty and is on trial before a jury and Justice Neil Campbell at the Auckland High Court.

The defence case is Sun is innocent and Zhong, who lived in Sunnyhills, was killed by someone else.

Prosecutors Gareth Kayes and Sam Becroft are presenting the Crown’s case while defence lawyers Sam Wimsett, Yvonne Mortimer-Wang and Honor Lanham are representing Sun.

The court previously heard Zhong and Sun met in 2012 and went into business together in 2014, setting up a company named Sunbow Limited.

They had shared interests in various businesses including in film production and vineyards.

Their business relationship soured when their joint companies fell into debt.

Sun took a civil litigation against Zhong alleging she owed him and his family millions of dollars.

He hired a private investigator to track her movements and send him updates on her whereabouts.

Sun was living in a home a short distance from Zhong at the time of her death.

Zhong was reported missing to police on the morning of November 28, 2020.

Her body was found later the same day inside the boot of her Land Rover vehicle parked in Roadley Avenue a short distance from her home.

She was wrapped in a blanket and had been stabbed in the head, neck and back more than 20 times.

During proceedings in court on May 16, Kayes continued to read aloud a summary of facts agreed upon by the prosecution and defence.

He said the 111 phone call to report Zhong missing was made just after 9am on November 28, 2020, by the daughter of one of her friends.

At 10.30am three police officers arrived and entered her Suzetta Place home.

Police guards were placed outside.

Kayes said at 10.50am two officers were dispatched to Sunnyhills to look for Zhong or any sign of her Land Rover vehicle.

They found her vehicle, with blood on its exterior, parked outside a house in Roadley Avenue at 11.11am.

At midday Sun’s ex-wife twice drove slowly past the entry to Suzetta Place in her vehicle, Kayes said.

The daughter of Zhong’s friend saw the woman and told police at the scene.

Officers stopped the woman, who was the vehicle’s sole occupant.

She gave them her date of birth and a home address in Auckland’s CBD.

Kayes told the court the woman said she and her family were the actual owners of Zhong’s Suzetta Place property and that her family and Zhong had got involved in a financial dispute.

She told police her family had not been in touch with Zhong “for ages” and her life was ruined by Zhong because her family had lost nearly $30 million.

She said she had not seen Zhong in nearly a year.

A police scene-of-crime officer arrived in Suzetta Place at 12.59pm and took DNA swabs and photographs from nine areas around the house where there appeared to be blood, Kayes said.

At 2.18pm an officer examined the outside of Zhong’s vehicle in Roadley Avenue for fingerprints.

The vehicle was left unattended between 2.45pm and 5pm when a police senior sergeant had both Zhong’s home and her vehicle again placed under guard.

At 6.47pm a police officer gained entry to the vehicle by smashing one of its small rear quarter-light windows.

At 7.45pm a police forensic photographer arrived at the scene.

He took photos of the vehicle’s exterior and interior as well as aerial shots.

A crime scene tent was erected over the vehicle.

Kayes said between 9.30pm on November 28 and 2am the following day police removed several exhibits from Zhong’s Land Rover.

They included the silver suitcase and two blood-soaked towels and the pad or piece of paper.

At 1.30am Zhong’s body was removed from the vehicle and taken to the Auckland City Hospital mortuary.

An hour later her Land Rover was towed from the scene and taken to a south Auckland tow yard and secured in its “serious crime bay”, Kayes said.

Called to give evidence in court via audio visual link on May 16 was former police digital forensic analyst Timothy Myers.

Kayes questioned Myers about the data and other information that can be extracted from mobile phones.

Myers said he was able to extract some data from a Huawei mobile phoned owned by Sun but was not able to get “detailed device activity” from it.

Kayes said Zhong’s mobile phone was not found during the investigation into her death but some of its data was obtained by police from a telecommunications company.

Myers said Zhong’s phone’s data stopped at 4.26am on November 28, 2020.

He said that could result from the phone losing service or its battery going flat, being destroyed or disconnected from the network, or being turned off.

Kayes also asked Myers about when Sun’s Huawei phone was connected to a particular wi-fi internet service on November 28, 2020.

The phone connected to the wi-fi several times just after 2am that day and then about six more times between 8-9am.

The trial continues and is expected to take about six weeks.

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