The body of an Asian female has been found in the boot of a car parked outside the Auckland home of the parents of abandoned toddler Qian Xun Xue, nick-named Pumpkin.
Police told a media conference the body was discovered at 1pm today but had not yet been formally identified. There will be a post-mortem examination tomorrow.
Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Scott said police had to get a warrant to move the car - a Honda with "Chinese Times" written on its side - to a secure location before they could search it.
"We didn't have the keys to the vehicle. It's not just a matter of breaking the windows and getting in," Mr Scott said.
Mr Scott was asked why the body had only been found this afternoon when the Mt Roskill property had been cordoned off yesterday.
He said the investigation was not a CSI programme and was likely to take days and weeks - not minutes.
He said police had to obtain two separate search warrants because the car was on the road not on the Xues' property itself.
Detectives have been searching for Qian's mother - 27-year-old An An Xue - after the girl was abandoned at a Melbourne railway station on Saturday.
Police have now confirmed the last sighting of Mrs Xue, outside a child care centre in the Auckland suburb of Balmoral at 4.35pm on Tuesday, September 11.
Mr Xue is being sought by police in the United States after abandoning his daughter Qian at a Melbourne train station and flying to Los Angeles. Detective Inspector Dave Pearson said New Zealand police were working with Interpol on the case.
When asked if there was a warrant for Mr Xue's arrest, Mr Pearson said he would not comment on the enquiries in the United States.
"We're looking towards the child being kidnapped by Mr Xue," he said.
Mr Scott told the media that Mrs Xue's mother - Grandmother of Qian - had been informed the body had been found.
Mr Xue visited the Henderson police station to recover a confiscated sword and his passport just hours before he flew out of Auckland. The sword is yet to be recovered, Mr Scott said.
Earlier today, he said the Operation Patch 0800 hotline number had had a call from a woman who says she is the "missing" older daughter of father Nai Yin Xue.
"She is being very co-operative and is safe and well and lives in New Zealand. We don't have any concerns for her safety and will respect her wishes that she not be subjected to any publicity," Mr Scott said.
"We will speak to her again today as part of our profiling inquiries around Mr Xue.
"As each hour goes by our concerns for Anan grow accordingly. There's been no activity on her bank accounts since last Monday - September 10 - and the mobile number we have for her goes directly to voicemail."
Mr Xue was sentenced in the Waitakere District Court this year for family violence. It was a different case from the one in which his wife refused to testify.
Friends have confirmed a history of domestic violence between the couple. Authorities have also confirmed that Mrs Xue has had protection orders against her husband during the past 12 months.
It is not clear if a protection order was in place when Mr Xue left New Zealand last week with Qian.
Last night, An An Xue's mother issued a plea for news of her missing daughter. Liu Xiao Ping told the Chinese-NZ community website Skykiwi.com that she last spoke to her Annie, as she was known, the day after her last reported sighting.
She later tried to contact her daughter again, but was surprised when Mr Xue answered Annie's mobile phone.
He told her that Annie had gone to Wellington for a church activity, so it was impossible to contact her.
Mrs Liu said the couple's relationship had been unstable for some time, and Annie had taken Qian to Wellington for two months in June without telling Mr Xue.
On August 20, Annie told her mother that Qian was not used to Wellington's windy weather so she took her back to Auckland.
Annie also told her mother she was not living with Mr Xue, a lie that was revealed when Mrs Liu called her cellphone and he answered.
Yesterday, Mrs Liu asked the Auckland Chinese community to help her to find Annie and said she would like to take Qian back to China.
Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Scott said yesterday that protection orders had been issued against Mr Xue in the past 12 months due to "family violence issues".
"The longer her whereabouts is unknown, the worse it is. Based on the information we have collated, we're concerned that An An has not been able to contact us in relation to her daughter."
Her white Honda hatchback was found at Auckland Airport on Monday night. Police believe Mr Xue may have used it.
Stella Li, a friend of the missing woman, told TV3's Campbell Live that Mr Xue regularly beat Annie, but she stayed with him for the sake of Qian.
Annie often wept when talking with Ms Li and described Mr Xue as "bad tempered and jealous" and regularly "stressed" about money.
Another family friend, who did not want to be identified, said police were called to the couple's then New Lynn home last year after Mr Xue threw a cellphone at his wife's face.
"He abused the wife and his wife just called the police and they came and took him and took her to women's refuge."
The friend thought Mr Xue had gone to jail following the incident.
When he returned, Annie was gone.
"She was in protection."
The friend said she thought Annie married Mr Xue - who was twice her age - to gain New Zealand residency.
Investigators yesterday conducted searches at the couple's Keystone Ave, Three Kings, home in an attempt to piece together their movements before their disappearance.
A person from the house was taken away, covered in a white sheet, in an unmarked police car at 4.45pm. Police said the person was a flatmate, not a suspect.
A police photographer arrived after 5pm and took photos of the house and the silver Fiat belonging to Mr Xue.
Several uniformed officers arrived after 7pm and were seen visiting neighbouring houses whose occupants had been spoken to earlier in the day.
A uniformed officer and police tape remained outside the house last night.
A builder who was working on a neighbouring house said he sometimes saw a young woman outside the Xues' home, but never a child.
An advertising delivery contractor said the mail did not appear to have been cleared at all last week.
Raymond Tang, owner of Love A Duck restaurant on Dominion Rd, told the Herald Mr Xue came into the restaurant last Wednesday about 1pm with a girl aged about 3 or 4 - presumably his daughter. "He was looking for a phone to check with his friend to come and have a chat."
Mr Tang left the restaurant about 2pm, but his staff told him that some time later, a Chinese woman aged about 40 joined Mr Xue. She did not appear to be Annie Xue.
Mr Xue and the woman appeared to know each other quite well and "they finished some noodles happily".
"The daughter appeared to be normal and well looked after, and he appeared pretty relaxed."
The trio left about 3pm.
Mr Tang said whether the girl had met the woman before wasn't clear.