Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Te Atatu murder clue: Victim's neighbour saw man in green and white tracksuit lurking in driveway

Maryanne Paerau says she saw a man "acting weird" at the end of Cunxiu Tian's driveway. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Maryanne Paerau says she saw a man "acting weird" at the end of Cunxiu Tian's driveway. Photo / Jason Oxenham

A resident of the quiet cul-de-sac where an Auckland grandmother was fatally attacked in her own home has revealed what may be the only clue in the brutal murder.

Police have this morning said they are seeking sightings of a man in a white and green tracksuit, four days after Cunxiu Tian, 69, died a violent death in her Te Atatu Peninsula home.

The Herald this morning spoke exclusively to the neighbour who saw the man "acting weird" at the end of Ms Tian's driveway slightly before 1pm on Friday.

Cunxiu Tian in Sydney. She was viciously beaten to death. Photo / Supplied
Cunxiu Tian in Sydney. She was viciously beaten to death. Photo / Supplied

Glenvil Lane resident Maryanne Paerau told the Herald she saw the man standing by a lamp post at the end of Ms Tian's driveway shortly before 1pm.

"I saw someone standing there, at the end of her driveway. It wasn't someone I have ever seen before, he had a tracksuit on and a baseball cap on and it was really hot on Friday, but he was completely covered."

She said the tracksuit looked old, and not a "cool" style that young people would usually wear. His cap was white.

"He was pretty tall and slim and maybe in his 20s.

"I just looked out the window and saw there was someone standing there by the pole and he was looking in this direction.

"He must have seen me and he quickly walked away."

Ms Paerau has lived on the street for 16 years and does not know all her neighbours personally, but recognises them.

Video

"It was weird, people who come up the street are either using it for the walkway or going to a house - but he just stood there and then walked away."

Ms Tian was found beaten and bloodied by her daughter and son-in-law when they arrived home from work shortly after 5pm.

Police have said the Glenvil Lane attack - that was not heard by any neighbours -- was violent and prolonged, and Ms Tian was struck multiple times around her head and face.

The identity of the attacker has remained a mystery and police have brought in criminal profilers as they try and find who was behind the horrific death.

The lane leading from Old Te Atatu Road to Glenvil Lane, where Cunxiu Tian was murdered in her home. Photo / Jason Oxenham
The lane leading from Old Te Atatu Road to Glenvil Lane, where Cunxiu Tian was murdered in her home. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Ms Paerau was among half a dozen neighbours who spoke with the Herald this morning in the wake of such a violent crime happening in their midst.

Shaken and afraid

The neighbourhood appeared quiet but not deserted this morning, with a lot of residents home during the day.

Police were still working at Ms Tian's home, a two-storeyed cream and charcoal stucco house on a back section. Crime scene tents were visible over the top of the fence, and a large police truck was parked in the street.

Next to flowers and plants left at her gate, one officer was parked in the driveway to the home, that is still taped off, and was taking down the names, drivers licence and phone numbers of every person coming and going from the street.

Other officers appeared to be doing driving patrols of the surrounding streets, with one patrol car parked in the backyard of a neighbouring section.

Police at the crime scene. Photo / Dean Purcell
Police at the crime scene. Photo / Dean Purcell

"It's scary," said Ms Paerau. "It makes me want to get a dog, especially living next to the alley way. This used to be a safe neighbourhood, really safe. You could leave your door open and nothing would happen."

She said Ms Tian was known for keeping her driveway pristine - and was always weeding and sweeping outside.

"She was really friendly and polite and would always say 'hello'."

Directly behind Ms Tian's home on Kotuku St, Satya Narayan said his wife was "traumatised" knowing what had occurred over their back fence.

"My wife is quite traumatised, the 24-hour appearance of police here in large numbers is quite frightening for her, that something so bad happened so close.

"We are not feeling very safe, my family members are scared."

Another neighbour, Errol Shute, said he has lived on Glenvil Lane since 1973 and had installed a gate and always had a large dog to keep his property safe.

"It's so unfortunate that it has happened here to a lady and for her family to come home and find her like that, it's terrible really."

He said he the crime was very unsettling but he had always been vigilant about home security.

"There is that many deadbeats wandering the streets, you see them all the time coming down the alley way with hoods and hats covering their faces.

"We have a very good dog here and anyone that comes close to the gate, he lets me know."

A lot of residents in the neighbourhood were elderly or retired people who lived alone, he said.

Robert Bainbridge, 86, lives on Old Te Atatu Rd very close to the alley way that many residents believe could have aided the attackers entrance or exit to Ms Tian's home.

"No, I don't really feel safe anymore," he said. "I have lived here 60 years and built this house myself, I don't want to move. It's terrible, I always keep the doors locked even when I am at home...but it does make you a bit scared."

His neighbour, Grant Chaytor, said the whole community was shaken by the terrible act.

"People are a bit shaken up, everyone is locking their doors a lot more, that's for sure.

"For me, it's not knowing what was behind it. A burglary is one thing, but to break into someone's house and kill them for a television or something is nuts. Especially on an old lady, that's just cowardly.

"I've lived in Te Atatu all my life, I'm a Westie through and through, and this sort of thing just doesn't happen in Te Atatu - it's not that sort of place."

• Call the Operation Nepal team on 0800 77 22 71 or phone the Henderson Police Station 09 839 0600 with any information, or to phone anonymous tip line Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- NZ Herald

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