The family of missing Christchurch real estate agent Yanfei Bao have issued a “heartfelt” thank you to the public, with her husband urging people to “go home tonight and tell all those you hold dear that you love and cherish them”.
It comes as police resume their search of Lake Ellesmere, two weeks after her disappearance.
A homicide probe was launched last Wednesday after the disturbing disappearance of the 44-year-old, who was last seen alive on July 19.
Since then police have appeared to focus their efforts on the Halswell River and Lake Ellesmere using Police Search and Rescue, LandSar volunteers, Coastguard, surf lifesaving members, the Police Specialist Search Group, police dog teams, Garden City Helicopters and Amateur Radio Emergency Communications (Arec) hunting on the ground, water and in the sky.
On Wednesday, Bao’s family issued a statement thanking family, friends and the general public for the “outpouring of kind words and unwavering support following the disappearance of their beloved wife and mother”.
“The love and compassion displayed by fellow New Zealanders has been truly humbling, and the Bao family cannot express how grateful they are for all the generous donations made through ‘Givealittle’.”
The family also expressed their “sincere appreciation” to the Police for their “invaluable support and relentless dedication” in the search for Bao.
“The family urges anyone with information that could assist the police in locating Yanfei to come forward as soon as possible.
“Their only desire is to have her returned to them, so they can find closure and begin the grieving process.”
The family also encouraged everyone to cherish their loved ones and express their feelings openly.
“Go home tonight and tell all those you hold dear that you love and cherish them,” Bao’s husband, Paul Gooch said.
The water search was paused since Friday because of unfavourable conditions but police said they would be back searching the water today.
Police Search and Rescue and dive squad were involved, along with an aerial search.
“Other inquiries have continued to progress as Police receive information about Ms Bao’s disappearance.
“Staff are dedicated to piecing together the circumstances of the investigation and we remain interested in any information relating to sightings of a silver Mitsubishi sedan with the registration DPH101, particularly on Thursday 20 July.”
On Monday, Detective Inspector Nicola Reeves said police had received more than 200 pieces of information relating to the case.
Drone photographs taken by the Herald along the Halswell River and Lake Ellesmere reveal the vast area police will be searching once they get back in the water.
Reeves said police remained committed to finding Bao.
Police were grateful for the huge response from the public in relation to this investigation, she said.
“The investigation team continues to be interested in hearing from members of the public that saw Ms Bao’s vehicle on the day she went missing, Wednesday, July 19.”
Bao’s family is also expected to travel to New Zealand from China, police confirmed.
On Saturday, a Givealittle page was set by one of her friends, Vani Liu.
“With heavy hearts, we ask to extend our support and help ease the burden faced by the family of Yanfei Bao, a dedicated real estate agent who has tragically disappeared while showing a house in Hornby.”
Bao’s disappearance had left her family “devastated and in deep sorrow”.
“Yanfei was not only a skilled professional but also a beloved partner to Paul, a cherished daughter, and a loving mother to her young child, Momo. As her family, friends, and community, we cannot fathom the pain they are enduring, and we want to offer our assistance during this unimaginably difficult time.”
Bao was last seen about 10am on Trevor St, Hornby, where she was due to show a potential buyer through a home.
The 52-year-old man charged with kidnapping Bao appeared in court last week.
The Herald revealed the man had only been living in New Zealand for several months.
Police were tight-lipped over what the man had told them. Reeves confirmed further charges are being considered.
Anyone who saw Bao’s silver Nissan Dualis after 12.30pm and before 10.45pm on the day she disappeared is urged to contact police, she said. The car was seen on CCTV footage in Hornby’s Trevor St, where police forensic scene experts have been examining a house.
Police had also seen a silver Mitsubishi - seized as part of their inquiry - on the street, while Bao’s cell phone was found on the side of the Southern Motorway on Friday.
“Our search for Ms Bao is continuing, with significant police resources committed to finding her and bringing her home to her family,” Reeves said.
Anyone who had seen Yanfei Bao, or had any information about where she could be, is urged to call 111 immediately and quote event number P055385539.
Sam Sherwood is a Christchurch-based reporter who covers crime. He is a senior journalist who joined the Herald in 2022, and has worked as a journalist for 10 years.