As Sunnyhills resident Andrea Paley rushed her teen son to a soccer game one morning in November 2020, the two saw a person walking through their East Auckland neighbourhood who looked so out of place Paley couldn't get it out of her head for the rest of the morning.
When she returned that afternoon to find police looking for fellow Sunnyhills resident Elizabeth Zhong, she knew it had to be related, she told jurors today at the murder trial of Fang Sun.
"It was Saturday morning and this person seemed to be dressed up as if they were going out on the town," she testified today while appearing via audio-visual link in the High Court at Auckland. "It was full black clothing.
"The person was a man with a wig on and was obviously trying to disguise himself to look like a woman."
Authorities have accused Sun, who also lived in the neighbourhood, of breaking into Zhong's home on the night of November 27, 2020, and fatally attacking her in her bedroom. The two were former friends and business partners who had fallen out over the past year over control of their failing business. Sun, 48, accused Zhong of losing him and his family more than $25 million in investments.
Zhong, 55, was found dead the following day in the boot of her Land Rover, which was left parked on the side of the road in the same neighbourhood.
But hours prior to the grisly discovery that day - before Zhong had even been reported missing - Paley and her son saw the strange pedestrian in the same area.
The wig was shoulder length and dishevelled and the pedestrian was wearing fancy-looking ankle-length boots, "looking rather glam for a Saturday morning", Paley recalled.
"Both my son and myself looked at each other and we both said, pardon my French, 'What the f***?'" Paley said. "Going through my head, I was trying to figure out what the person was doing there looking like that and what had they done.
"My head was racing, trying to figure out what was happening."
While she only saw the person for about 30 seconds, she surmised that it was a male with olive skin, probably of Asian descent and appearing to be somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60.
"Basically, I couldn't let it go all morning," she said. "I knew I had seen something and I couldn't quite figure out what it was or what it related to. So it played on my mind all morning.
"As soon as I arrived back home there police were on Roadley Ave and I knew whatever I'd seen related to what they were looking for."
Police showed her a book of photos several months later but she was unable to identify anyone as the person she saw that morning.
Testifying directly after his mum, Paley's son said he could not see the pedestrian's face but agreed the person appeared to be male and wearing a wig.
"He was looking down the whole time, trying to hide his face," the teen said, explaining that he was initially looking at his phone in the car when they passed the person. "I did turn back and look ... because we did find it very unusual."