Thursday, February 29, 2024

Slain woman’s daughter testifies in court

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Flowers were left by the mailbox of Elizabeth Zhong’s east Auckland home after she was found dead in November 2020. Times file photo Wayne Martin

The daughter of an east Auckland businesswoman who was stabbed to death broke down in tears as she told a court she wished she was there more to “support my mum”.

Elizabeth (Ying) Zhong, 55, was violently killed in her Sunnyhills home in late November, 2020.

The Crown alleges her killer is her former business partner Fang Sun, who has denied the charge and is on trial for Zhong’s murder.

The defence case is Sun is innocent and Zhong was killed by someone else.

Sun’s trial is being held before a jury and Justice Neil Campbell at the Auckland High Court and began on April 26.

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.

The investigator placed a tracking device on Zhong’s vehicle.

A friend of Zhong’s went to her Suzetta Place home on the morning of November 28, 2020. She found blood at the property and contacted police.

Zhong’s body was found later the same day inside the boot of her Land Rover vehicle parked a short distance from her home.

She had been wrapped in a blanket and had a suitcase placed on top of her. She’d been stabbed in the head, neck, and back more than 20 times.

Among those who gave evidence in court at the start of week three of the trial on May 9 was Zhong’s daughter, who has name suppression.

Kayes asked her if she knew how many people had keys to Zhong’s Suzetta Place home in November 2020.

The woman said she believed one of her mother’s friends and the friend’s husband had keys, as did Zhong herself.

She told the court she was unaware her mother had a CCTV system installed at the property until after she was killed and she didn’t know where its equipment was stored.

She said Zhong was “sometimes a bit forgetful” and would leave doors at the house unlocked.

The woman said her mother’s Land Rover had two sets of keys.

She found the vehicle’s second key in a storage container under a coffee table in Zhong’s bedroom in the weeks following her death.

Kayes asked her if her father, Zhong’s ex-husband, had lived at the Suzetta Place property for a period of time.

She said he had but that he had “moved out quite abruptly”.

The relationship between Zhong and Sun was one of “trusted business partners” but that relationship broke down due to disputes, the details of which she was unaware.

The woman said she thought her mother had told her on three occasions Sun had threatened to kill her.

Zhong’s daughter broke down crying and said during that time she’d had children and her mother “didn’t want to make my life even harder”.

“I really wish I was there to support my mum, but I had two kids and didn’t come back as often as I wanted to.”

She said Zhong was a “very strong and private person”.

The woman said she and her mother discussed Sun’s alleged threats to Zhong after the Covid-19 lockdown of early 2020.

Zhong had attempted suicide in October that year and was taken to Middlemore Hospital.

Her daughter said she could tell her mother was “getting really desperate and upset”.

Zhong was taking medication for stress and lack of sleep, she said.

Following the suicide attempt, the woman came to Auckland for about four days.

Kayes asked her if she saw her mother alive after that. She said she did not.

Called to give evidence on May 9 also was Zhong’s ex-husband Frank Fu.

Wimsett asked Fu about a meeting he’d had with Sun at a Half Moon Bay cafe.

He said Fu didn’t mention the meeting when he spoke to police shortly after Zhong’s death.

Wimsett put to Fu that he then told police about the meeting at a subsequent interview.

“You told police, ‘I just kept quiet and didn’t say a word’.”

Wimsett asked Fu if he offered to provide help to Sun in his civil litigation against Zhong. Fu said he did.

“Did you offer to provide documents or evidence against her in the court case that was happening then?” Wimsett asked him.

Fu replied: “I said I can help him to get ownership of the vineyard back. It was sold all of a sudden.”

Wimsett asked Fu if he talked with Sun about a boyfriend of Zhong’s named David.

Fu said Sun complained about David “all the time”.

During the court proceedings on Monday, Kayes read to the jury an extensive summary of facts agreed upon by both the Crown and defence.

It covered details from the lives of Zhong and Sun and their business relationship.

Kayes said Sunbow Limited once had assets of more than $28 million.

He said Zhong was a member at SkyCity Casino.

Between early 2017 and her death in late 2020 she visited it more than 300 times and her casino account had gambling losses of more than $200,000.

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

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