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In the hours between when Elizabeth Zhong was reported missing and the gruesome discovery of her body in the boot of her own vehicle, police twice spotted Freda Tang slowly driving by the businesswoman's East Auckland home.
When Tang was pulled over minutes later and questioned about the odd behaviour, she didn't hold back regarding her resentment towards Zhong, jurors were told today as the fourth week of testimony began in the murder trial of Tang's ex-partner, Fang Sun.
"Her life was ruined by Ms Zhong because her family lost nearly $30 million," a police constable reported her saying.
Prosecutors have alleged Sun broke into Zhong's Sunnyhills home on the night of November 27, 2020, and violently attacked her in her bedroom following months of simmering anger as they waged a civil battle over control of their faltering companies. Sun had accused Zhong of embezzling funds for personal use, while Zhong had filed multiple affidavits saying Sun was threatening her life.
Police discovered Zhong's body, which had been stabbed over 20 times, in the boot of her Land Rover just before 7pm on November 28, roughly eight hours after the 55-year-old had been reported missing. The vehicle had been abandoned on the side of the road in the same neighbourhood where both she and the defendant lived in separate houses.
Sun's ex was seen driving through the neighbourhood at about midday, jurors in the High Court at Auckland were told today as prosecutors read aloud agreed facts that summarised the traffic stop.
The officer who interviewed Tang recalled that she noted to him that she and her ex used to live in Zhong's house with her.
"Ms Tang said her family are the actual owners [of the house] and that her family and Ms Zhong's family used to run an investment company in 2014 but they got involved in a financial dispute in 2019," the officer said.
When asked why she was driving by the property, Tang, who by then was living roughly 30 minutes away in Auckland Central, said she noticed an unknown red vehicle parked outside the garage and became curious.
"Her family has not been in touch with Ms Zhong for 'ages'," the constable noted her telling him. "She has not seen Ms Zhong for about a year.
"She asked what happened and was advised the Police could not disclose that."
Jurors also heard today from officers who discovered Zhong's body in her Land Rover, which had been found just after 11am that day with blood on its exterior. The vehicle was initially put under guard and the exterior was dusted for fingerprints, but police left it unattended for over two hours starting at 2.45pm after deciding there wasn't enough evidence at that point to consider it a crime scene.
By 6.47pm, however, Detective Constable Te Morunga was given permission to break a window of the vehicle to gain access.
"I located a release button to the rear passenger seat and folded it forward," he told jurors. "I reached to the rear of that seat and raised a blanket that was there so I could see into the boot.
"I saw what appeared to be a bent knee of a human being."
He was then tasked with checking for signs of life, he said. There were none.
As Morunga testified, jurors were shown a photo of the vehicle and Zhong's knee - the detective's vantage point at the time.
Jurors were then shown increasingly graphic photos as prosecutors questioned Detective Aron Singh about his task that evening, uncovering Zhong from underneath multiple blankets and removing her body from the vehicle.
"I do recall the deceased's hair was quite thick and soaked in blood," he testified.