Xue murder case had international focus

It was perhaps New Zealand's most international murder case - involving a wee girl abandoned in Melbourne, the discovery of her mother's body in the boot of a car in Auckland and a four-month hunt for her father before he was found in the United States.

A jury in the High Court at Auckland today found Nai Yin Xue guilty of the murder of his wife An An Liu, 28, in September 2007, rejecting his forthright denials that he was in any way responsible for her death.

The 55-year-old was publisher of the Chinese Times in Auckland and it was the boot of the newspaper's car - outside the family home in suburban Mt Roskill - in which Ms Liu's body was found.

Police alleged Xue strangled Ms Liu with a neck tie, probably on the night of September 11, 2007. They say he then fled to Australia with his three-year-old daughter Qian Xun two days later, abandoning her at a Melbourne railway station on September 15 before flying to Los Angeles.

The plight of three-year-old Qian Xun touched hearts around the world. As Melbourne police tried to ascertain her identity, she was nicknamed Pumpkin, after the label on the clothes she was wearing.

Interpol was contacted to start the hunt for Xue, while concerns mounted back in Auckland over the fate of her mother, who could not be found.

"It is one of the most intriguing matters I've been involved in," said Inspector Brad Shallies, the Melbourne officer leading the investigation.

Two days after Xue flew to the US, Auckland police visited the family home in Keystone Ave, Mt Roskill. A day later the Chinese Times car was under forensic study, but Ms Liu's body was not found in the boot until the day after.

It was an embarrassment for police in such a high profile case, but they said they already believed she had been killed well before that. In retrospect, they said her body should have been found quicker once the car had been seized.

The hunt for Xue was high profile, featuring photos of him on the popular crime television show, America's Most Wanted.

But he proved elusive, being on the run for four months before an American-Chinese family recognised him in Atlanta, Georgia, hog-tying him down before police arrived.

The family picked up a US$10,000 ($12,800) reward and Xue was deported back to New Zealand, arriving on March 10 last year.

He was charged with Mis Liu's murder and finally went on trial at the start of this month.

Prosecution witnesses had painted an unhappy home, with one saying Ms Liu had only married Xue so she could gain New Zealand residency. She left him earlier in July 2007 to live in Wellington, but agreed to return to Auckland a month later.

Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins said Xue had travelled to Wellington with an axe prepared to kill her if she didn't return with him.

Xue did not give evidence, but was direct in his "I am not guilty, I am innocent" plea. His lawyer said Xue didn't know his wife was dead when he abandoned his daughter at a Melbourne railway station.

Chris Comeskey told jurors Xue left New Zealand because he thought his relationship was over and his Chinese Times publication was losing money.

He suggested it was possible she died as a result of a sex act gone wrong with a man or two men involving a neck tie.

The ongoing tragedy of the case is that a young girl has a dead mother and a father in prison.

The Family Court allowed Qian Xun to go back to China with her grandmother in October 2007.

The grandmother, Xiaoping Liu, gave evidence at the trial by videolink.

When Justice Williams asked how her granddaughter was doing, Mrs Liu broke down at the end of her reply.

The reply was not translated for the jury after the judge said it could be controversial.

- NZPA

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