The "sickening and senseless" killing of Auckland woman Lena Zhang Harrap has tugged on the heartstrings of the nation prompting thanks from her family for the outpouring of love.
Harrap's body was discovered on Wednesday along a bush-lined walkway, barely a kilometre from her Mt Albert home, after she went missing while on her daily walk.
A 31-year-old man appeared in court yesterday charged with murder and sexual violation.
He did not enter a plea but was granted interim name suppression at the request of his lawyer.
Those in Auckland's Down syndrome and StarJam community and teachers at her former schools are heartbroken by the 27-year-old's death.
On stage Harrap shone, her enthusiasm and infectious smile bringing joy to those watching and performing alongside the StarJam dancer who gave every routine her best.
The New Zealand Down syndrome community said it was shocked by the heartbreaking news.
"The loss of a child is the worst possible nightmare for any whānau, and the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association and the Auckland Down Syndrome Association, and the UpsideDowns Education trust offer their condolences to Lena's family and friends," said the organisation.
StarJam, an organisation that uses music, dance and performance to connect young people with disabilities, posted a photo of Harrap, her hair being curled ahead of a show.
They paid tribute to the "true Jammer", saying that for more than a decade Harrap had been part of the city's dance crew and known for her infectious smile and enthusiasm.
"For over 12 years, Lena has been a true Jammer in Auckland Magic Movers and more recently the Central Alumni All Stars; greeting everyone with her infectious smile, genuine heartfelt support and inviting her fellow Jammers up to join her Spot the Talents. Lena, you will always be in our hearts – our thoughts go out to your family and friends," read a Facebook post.
One woman who worked at StarJam said Lena brought a special touch of magic to the stage.
Ella Stuart said: "It was such a privilege to know Lena - she was always so enthusiastic with everything she did and her love of dancing was truly wonderful to watch. She put the 'magic' in Magic Movers! She will be so missed and in our hearts and memories always."
Another woman whose sister did StarJam alongside Harrap shared a touching post.
"She was so joyful. She's dancing with the angels tonight," wrote Hayley Cargill-Pautu.
Lynfield College principal Cath Knell said it was an upsetting time for everyone who knew Harrap.
"Lena may have been small in stature but she had the biggest heart. Her wicked sense of humour backed up by a mischievous smile brought much joy to those who taught her. Confident and independent, Lena placed no limitations on herself and gave everything her best shot," said Knell.
Harrap's primary school, Gladstone School in Mt Albert, said their heartfelt thoughts went out to Harrap's family also.
"Lena attended Gladstone Primary and she is still fondly remembered by the staff and students who worked with her and supported her over the years she spent with us," they said.
While Harrap's family requested privacy, they issued a statement saying they were "eternally grateful" for the outpouring of support and requested people direct their generosity to the organisations their daughter loved.
"We acknowledge that people want to express their grief and love for Lena and our family.
"Lena received great joy, friendship, acceptance and belonging through two amazing charitable organisations, those being Heart Kids and StarJam. As such we would ask you to direct your aroha through supporting these two charities, so others may continue to benefit."
Detective Inspector Aaron Pascoe described her death as a "sickening and senseless attack on a vulnerable member of our community, which we know disturbed and angered a lot of people".
He said the investigation was ongoing and appealed for sightings of a white Hyundai station wagon, registration EGZ962, between Wednesday and Friday.
• Anyone who saw the car or witnessed any suspicious activity in the area around Grande Ave, Summit Dr or the Ōwairaka Domain early Wednesday morning is asked to contact police on 0800 325 399 (0800 DALEYZA).