The case of a toddler apparently abandoned in Australia by her father before he flew to the US has turned into a trans-Pacific manhunt after police said Thursday her mother had died violently.
"Preliminary findings from the pathologist are that she died during a violent episode," Auckland police said Thursday, referring to An An Liu, the mother of the little girl known as Pumpkin.
In Melbourne, Qian Xun Xue was asking for her mother as police confirmed 27-year-old Liu had been killed and her body stuffed in the boot of her husband's car.
On the other side of the Pacific, police hunted for Nai Yin Xue in Los Angeles, where the 54-year-old had flown on Saturday after allegedly dumping his daughter at a railway station.
In China, Liu's mother Liu Xiao Ping was hurriedly preparing to travel to Australia to be reunited with her granddaughter.
Grainy security camera footage at Melbourne's Southern Cross railway station from Saturday show a man walking through the station hand in hand with a little girl in a red smock.
At the bottom of an escalator he bends down and says something to her before walking away, wheeling a suitcase behind him.
When police found her 15 minutes later, Qian Xun was crying, still standing forlornly beside the escalator.
Police named the little girl Pumpkin -- after the brand name of her smock -- before uncovering the identity of the girl and her father.
The positive identification saw the focus of the inquiry shift to New Zealand and police quickly developed fears for the safety of Liu.
The answer was found Wednesday outside the family's Keystone Avenue home in the boot of a car emblazoned with the name of the Chinese language news magazine published by Xue, a self-proclaimed martial arts expert.
Police have been criticised for their handling of the investigation, with some using the coincidence of the house's address to label them the Keystone Kops.
But investigation chief Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Scott denied police had taken too long to search the car and to seek the help of US police to find Xue.
"Contrary to media reports to date, this homicide investigation team has been liaising with the appropriate agencies in the United States and Australia over the whereabouts of Mr Xue," Scott said.
Even before the discovery of Liu's body, early suggestions the family was happy and successful were starting to unravel.
Xue arrived in New Zealand from China about 10 years ago and Liu came five years ago as a language student.
They married in 2003, with friends saying Liu agreed to the match with a much older man to gain residency in New Zealand.
Last year a court order gave custody of Qian Xun to Liu after her husband was violent towards her as tensions in the relationship and financial worries boiled over.
Liu reportedly had an affair with a man earlier this year while separated from her husband and had advertised on dating sites, looking for a new start after her loveless marriage.
Qian Xun remains in foster care in Melbourne but should soon be reunited with her mother's family.
Through an interpreter, Liu's mother told Television New Zealand that the family's priority was to be reunited with their granddaughter.
"No matter what has happened to An An, we must take Qian Xun back. My husband and my family, we want her to grow healthy," she said.
Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2007, 18:13