Susan Sutherland was a petite woman who hated violence. Her chosen lifestyle made it difficult to avoid.

The 36-year-old prostitute died at the hands of an unknown assailant. Her body was found naked at the weekend in an empty section in central Christchurch, propped awkwardly against a wooden fence.

The former Auckland woman was the third murder victim in Christchurch in seven weeks.

As a dead prostitute, Susie, as she was known, made headlines. But her life was not always so open to public scrutiny.

Yesterday her family wrote an open letter to the public asking for help to solve the murder of their daughter and sister, the "very beautiful young woman, well-spoken and gentle" - a different girl to the drug addict who turned tricks in Christchurch's red light district.

Police have already questioned 200 people in Christchurch. Yesterday they released video footage from the Night and Day dairy opposite the Christchurch Casino which shows Susie wearing a dark skirt, a cross-over top cropped to just above her waistline and black leather boots.

That was at 3.30am Saturday. Her body was found 300m away six hours later.

The elder of two daughters, Susie had no children. Her parents are separated and live in Auckland. Her mother is a painter/decorator and her father semi-retired.

Susie was a good student who learned the piano and cello. Happy and co-operative, she loved animals, was artistic and enjoyed singing and acting. She also loved sailing holidays on the family boat.

She had gained university entrance in the sixth form, and had dreams of travel and university.

For whatever reason as a young adult she started using drugs and became addicted to morphine. At 20 she flirted briefly with rehabilitation but left before finishing her treatment.

Her family hoped Susie would try again but instead she moved away to Christchurch and shut them out of her life. She avoided contact when they tried to visit her.

Her family knew that she had a drug problem but did not know much about her lifestyle, they said.

"The family is grieving deeply for a young life lost; for the violence of her death and the fact that Susan was lost to them and did not share their ongoing lives."

Susan Sutherland will be buried in Christchurch rather than Auckland, to honour the fact she made Christchurch her home.

The family want justice for the life "needlessly and violently cut short" and for the daughter they once knew.