Thursday, February 29, 2024

Jury finds Fang Sun guilty of Elizabeth Zhong’s murder

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Police and forensic experts examined Elizabeth Zhong’s home following her death in late 2020. Times file photo Wayne Martin

In the early hours of November 28, 2020, when most east Auckland residents would have been sleeping soundly in their beds, a killer was creeping silently toward the Sunnyhills home of Elizabeth (Ying) Zhong.

After hearing evidence for more than a month from dozens of witnesses, a jury at the Auckland High Court on June 2 delivered its verdict that Zhong’s former business partner Fang Sun was her killer.

The case began when a friend of Zhong’s went to her Suzetta Place property on the morning of November 28 and found she wasn’t home.

The friend, who was with her husband and daughter, saw what appeared to be blood in Zhong’s bedroom.

They phoned police to report her missing and officers arrived and examined the property.

Later the same day police found Zhong’s Land Rover parked in Roadley Avenue a short distance from her home.

They broke into it and discovered her body inside the boot.

Zhong had been wrapped in a blanket and had a suitcase placed on top of her.

The 55-year-old had been stabbed more than 20 times in the head, neck and back.

Following a lengthy police investigation, police arrested Sun and charged him with Zhong’s murder.

He pleaded not guilty with his trial getting under way before a jury and Justice Neil Campbell on April 26.

The Crown’s case was presented by prosecutors Gareth Kayes and Sam Becroft.

Defence lawyers Sam Wimsett, Yvonne Mortimer-Wang and Honor Lanham represented Sun.

Early in the trial the court heard Zhong and Sun went into business together in 2014, setting up a company named Sunbow Limited.

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

Sun made a police complaint against Zhong saying she’d misappropriated funds and lost millions of dollars from their companies.

He also launched a civil litigation against her in court.

The Crown said Sun’s anger at Zhong over their failed business dealings and financial losses were his motive for murder.

Both Sun and his ex-wife told people Zhong had ruined their lives.

Zhong told police Sun had threatened to kill her and she feared for her life.

She’d had CCTV installed at her home and applied for a firearms licence.

Sun hired a private investigator to follow Zhong.

In August 2020 the investigator placed a tracking device on her Land Rover vehicle.

The device was removed from the vehicle before it was found by police.

Blood stains and finger marks were later found underneath the vehicle, which Kayes said showed the killer had reached under the vehicle looking for the tracking device to remove it.

He told jurors only Sun and the investigator knew the device was there.

After Zhong’s death a post mortem was performed on her body.

Her fingernails were clipped and swabbed for DNA as part of the procedure.

Kayes told the jury male DNA found under Zhong’s fingernails showed “strong scientific support” it belonged to Sun.

Wimsett countered the male DNA found under Zhong’s fingernails could “equally” belong to Sun’s son.

He said Zhong’s daughter wrote to the judge and lawyers involved in the civil case taken against her saying her mother was too sick to take part, but Sun found out she was at SkyCity Casino.

Wimsett said a police officer who gave evidence during the trial testified he’d observed no marks or scratches on Sun’s arms when he spoke to him in the days following Zhong’s death.

He said Sun was “too big, too chubby and had too much of a belly” to be the person filmed on CCTV and seen walking near Zhong’s home around the time she was killed.

Wimsett told the jury Sun’s actions showed he had a respect for the correct way of doing things.

He said when Sun came to believe Zhong had misappropriated funds from their company he engaged a prominent law firm, hired a private investigator, gathered evidence to support his case and provided it to police.

Wimsett said Zhong had CCTV installed in her house in March 2018 and she and Sun celebrated Christmas together in 2018.

She applied for a firearms licence “well before” things soured between her and Sun, he said.

“The defence says the gun licence has nothing to do with Mr Sun.”

Wimsett told the jury to be careful to accept what Zhong told people about the alleged threats.

He said she stated in an affidavit she had not been served with certain documents, but that was a “blatant lie” as there was evidence the documents had been served on her.

Wimsett said Zhong alleged Sun had threatened to kill her to delay the civil proceedings.

“The defence says Ms Zhong could have sought a trespass notice or restraining order against Mr Sun but never did.”

The court heard from witnesses including Zhong’s daughter, ex-husband, friends, police officers, fingerprint, DNA and forensic experts, an ex-partner, her civil lawyer, and others.

After six weeks, the jury decided the case had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Sun was Zhong’s killer.

Justice Campbell remanded him in custody to be sentenced on August 2.

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