Pumpkin case: Body under cops' noses for two days

By Elizabeth Binning, Stuart Dye

Police are making no apologies for the time it took to find the body of an Asian woman in the boot of a car they had seized 16 hours earlier.

A warrant to seize the Honda Rafaga was granted at 9pm on Tuesday night but police did not find the body, believed to be that of missing woman An An Liu, until 1pm yesterday during a forensic examination.

The car, registered to Ms Liu's fugitive husband Nai Yin Xue, had been parked outside their Mt Roskill home since at least Monday.

Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Scott said the delay was a result of police conducting a "thorough inquiry here and doing thorough investigations".

Mr Scott said police spent Tuesday trying to obtain a search warrant for the car but it was not granted until 9pm.

It then took a further two hours before the car was towed to a secure location.

Yesterday morning the forensic examination was delayed "a little bit longer than it usually would" be, while police underwent a briefing on the case, which included bringing staff new to the inquiry up to speed.

Mr Scott said once under way the forensic examination had to be carried out according to procedure.

"We haven't had the keys for that vehicle. It's just not a matter of breaking the windows and getting in."

He said the examinations were not as easy as shown in television programmes such as CSI.

"These things don't take minutes, they could take days or weeks. We are wanting to do a thorough investigation into that vehicle and we are not going to be rushed," he said. "We are working for An An and her family and we want to gather the evidence and prosecute the offender and that's what we are going to do."

A former high ranking cop has criticised police for taking two days to find the body in the car.

The ex-detective, who asked not to be named, said police inaction and failure to find the body was "absolutely appalling."

He said once the police were told Qian had been abandoned, Ms Liu was missing and her husband had fled to America, they made basic errors.

He said a search warrant in a potential homicide inquiry could be obtained within an hour, and rejected police claims they could not search the car for many hours because of the time it took to get the search warrant.

"Urgency was the name of the game," the former detective said.

He said there was a possibility she may have been alive when she was put in the boot and was still alive when Mr Xue left Auckland for Melbourne last Thursday.

"Christ, one of your prime duties of your oath of office (as a police officer) is to protect life," he said.

The ex-officer said the police had too many senior officers in the upper echelon who did not "think outside the square and don't know where the jugular is and to go for it and to get their priorities right.

"I don't know if they are scared of all the niceties they think they are supposed to bloody observe or whatever."

But Police Deputy Commissioner Operations Rob Pope said he had every confidence in the investigation team.

"There are many forensic and legal requirements to be taken into account when dealing with an item of potential evidential value. Following proper process in these matters can be critical to the conclusion of any trial process."

Auckland City Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said "we don't just go busting into things".

"We have to make sure we are in a very secure area where any evidence is not going to be contaminated, where there's not going to be any people who are offended or distressed by what we might uncover. We needed to make absolutely sure that the processes that we used are correct.

"Our staff, including myself, have been working exceedingly long hours to make sure this investigation is carried out appropriately. We are not going to fall into the trap of fitting into the general population's agenda. What we need to do is do things properly. Like I said, there is no apologies for doing the job right."

When asked if there was a chance the woman might have been alive but died in the time it took for police to open the boot, Ms Hegarty said: "I'm not going to speculate on that but we haven't had any reported sightings of An An since 4.35 last Tuesday."

Auckland defence lawyer Barry Hart last night criticised the time police took to obtain the search warrant and find the body, saying it appeared "slack".

Mr Hart said warrants could be granted by a Justice of the Peace if police had "reasonable grounds" to conduct a search.

"In my experience police get search warrants often when they've got very little evidence to justify it, so it seems absolutely ridiculous if they're suggesting that it took a lot of time and it's a great formal process when in reality it's not ... it sounds to me that they've just been a bit slack."

Keystone Cops?

* The boot of the abandoned car outside a house in Keystone Ave, Mt Roskill, was the most obvious of places.

* And yet it took 45 hours from the time police first went to the street before those searching for An An Xue looked inside.

* When they finally got around to it, they found the body of a woman that must have been there for at least six days. * Why it took them so long is just one of many questions arising from a sensational case that in some ways resembles the Keystone Kops.

Your views

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 21 Aug 2014 03:05:24 Processing Time: 536ms