On the weekend that Auckland businesswoman Elizabeth Zhong was stabbed to death her estranged business partner Fang Sun was supposed to be in the middle of a 10-day respite at a Waikato beach house.
But when the manager of the Bookabach rental dropped by midweek, it looked like no one was actually using the property, jurors were told today at Sun's murder trial.
"There was no sign that anyone had been in the property - no bags, no food and the beds looked untouched," Lisa Marcroft said of the "strange" last-minute booking in a statement to police that prosecutors read aloud.
The beach house had been booked for November 21-30, 2020, and police believe Zhong was attacked in her bedroom by an intruder on the night of November 27. Her body was found the next day in the boot of her Land Rover, which had been parked on the side of the road in the Sunnyhills neighbourhood where both she and the defendant lived.
Auckland businesswoman Elizabeth Zhong, 55, was found dead in the boot of her Land Rover in November 2020. Photo / Supplied
Marcroft told police she stopped by the rental property on November 25 to drop off some outdoor wooden chairs. Although she didn't go inside the home, she said she looked in the windows after noticing no cars were parked out front and there appeared to be no activity inside, she said.
She did see one large box on the kitchen bench that appeared to contain a saucepan and other items, she said.
"It seemed to me someone had dropped off the box in the kitchen and left the property," she said.
Authorities have alleged Sun killed Zhong following a heated civil battle over control of their multi-million-dollar company in which he accused her of embezzling money and she accused him of having her followed and threatening her life. During opening statements three weeks ago, Crown prosecutor Gareth Kayes suggested to jurors in the High Court at Auckland that Sun left for Waikato the day after Zhong was killed - possibly taking Zhong's personal belongings, such as her cellphone, with him.
Fang Sun is on trial for murder in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
Jurors also heard today from Sun's formal personal assistant, who described overhearing a WeChat video conversation between Sun and Zhong in 2019 in which Sun seemed "very, very upset" and said he would "make her suffer".
He also described a roughly 30-minute call with Sun about a year later.
"He mentioned three people he would like to have revenge on and it would make them dead," Di Zhao testified via audio-visual link from Beijing, where he lives. "But it was more a random expression of emotion."
Zhao also described how Sun believed his then-wife was cheating on him, and how Zhao was asked to help keep tabs on her in China with the help of a tracking device surreptitiously put on her vehicle.
Prosecutors have alleged that Sun used a similar tactic on Zhong in New Zealand prior to her death, paying a private investigator to put a tracking device on Zhong's SUV and alert him from time to time on where she was.
- by Craig Kapitan, NZ Herald