'Grave concerns' for Pumpkin's mother - car found at airport

By Elizabeth Binning, Alanah Eriksen, Edward Gay, Alanah May Eriksen

Police have found a car belonging to the mother of a New Zealand toddler abandoned in Melbourne and say they have "grave concerns" for the woman's safety.

Three-year-old Qian Xun Xue, dubbed Pumpkin by Melbourne police, was left by her father, Xue Naiyin, at a Melbourne railway station on Saturday.

At a media conference this afternoon, police said Mr Xue and his wife Anan Liu, 27, had a history of domestic violence and protection orders had been issued over the past 12 months.

Inspector Simon Scott told reporters Mrs Xue's car had been found at Auckland International Airport but there was nothing to suggest Pumpkin's mother had left the country.

Mrs Xue was last seen on the morning of Monday September 10 at her home address and CCTV footage at Auckland airport on Thursday showed the father and daughter alone, he said.

It is thought she had moved from Auckland to Wellington after separating from Mr Xue last month, though Australian media reported they had since got back together.

Mrs Xue's car, found at the airport last night, has been checked but a forensic investigation has yet to be done, Inspector Scott said.

This afternoon the family's home was cordoned off by police. Inspector Scott said police had found "some items of interest" but nothing that had lead them to Mrs Xue.

He said that police were reviewing that footage as well as CCTV footage of Mr Xue at the Henderson Police Station, which he had visited to return some property.

Inspector Scott declined to comment further on the Henderson footage.

He said New Zealand police were working with their colleagues in Australia and the US as well as Interpol.

"We're taking the disappearance of Annan very seriously and we want to find out where she is," Inspector Scott said.

The news.com.au website also said that Mr Xue was previously known to police in New Zealand and that CYF had investigated the family.

A spokesperson for CYF is neither denying nor confirming the reports, but said the organisation was working with Australian police and assisting however it can.

CYF said no further comment will be made due to the ongoing police investigation.

Police said today that they now had concerns for the safety of the mother, also known as Annie, who has not been found despite searches of three addresses in Auckland.

Head of Auckland CIB Detective Inspector Dave Pearson said this morning: "There are concerns we haven't heard from her at all."

He would not say if police thought the woman had been killed.

"You can jump to all sorts of conclusions but there are concerns we haven't heard from her, so yes the inquiry is being ramped up considerably," he said.

National MP Pansy Wong, said Mr Xue was an active member of the Chinese community and described his wife as a very private person.

"The mother and daughter are obviously very close. She is very sweet," Ms Wong said.

She was believed to have been an international student in New Zealand about five years ago when she met Mr Xue.

"I am trying my best and have put out a call through the Chinese media to call for information," she said on NewstalkZB. "It is quite a shock and sad news."

"I am trying my best and have put out a call through the Chinese media to call for information," she said on NewstalkZB. "It is quite a shock and sad news."

Ms Wong said some people had already said they feared the worst and that Annie may be dead.

One person had told her they could not see Annie willingly part with her daughter.

"We cross our fingers. We will try very hard to locate the mother and all our hearts go out to Qian Xun," she said.

The editor of the Chinese news website Skykiwi, Hewitt Wong, said members of the New Zealand Chinese community have offered to take the three year-old if her mother has not been found.

"Since this morning we have received calls from people saying: we want to help," Mr Wong said.

He said he last saw Mr Xue at a tai chi event in downtown Auckland a month ago.

Mr Wong said he had never met Mrs Xue and that he had spoken to four associates of Mr Xue, none of whom knew why he travelled to the US.

Skykiwi has a feedback section, which contains personal information about the Xues.

Mr Wong said he would not comment on the information because police investigations had not been completed.

Victorian police Inspector Brad Shallies said he understood today the mother was in New Zealand, but police did not know where she was.

The father is believed to have flown on to Los Angeles and American authorities have been alerted, Victoria Police inspector Brad Shallies said.

"But our focus really is New Zealand because what happens there will essentially drive where this investigation goes to," Mr Shallies said.

"In relation to mum and the New Zealand inquiries obviously we're very much in the hands of your own police service there."

When the little girl, who has become known as Pumpkin because she was dressed in Pumpkin Patch clothing, was found she was calling out for her mother.

They said yesterday that the girl had been answering some questions.

"I believe she is saying 'yes' and 'no' [when asked questions] and she is asking for her mum and that's all we are aware she is vocalising at the moment," a police spokeswoman said.

Police are appealing to anyone who has seen Mr and Mrs Xue to call them on 0800 272 824

- with NZPA, agencies

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