A Chinese man was seen regularly parked outside Elizabeth (Ying) Zhong’s East Auckland home in the months before a body likely to be hers was found in the boot of her own car.
Neighbours told the Herald the man would sit watching the 55-year-old grandmother’s Sunnyhills property for hours on end, sometimes for consecutive days, until it stopped about three weeks ago.
“I thought it was really really strange,” one neighbour who didn’t want to be identified, told the Herald.
“He didn’t get out of the car. He would just sit there watching. At first I didn’t think anything of it but then he kept coming back. I wish I had reported it.”
A different man was arrested at Zhong’s property close to three years ago and never returned, the neighbour said.
Since then it was common for police, including a detective, to visit Zhong’s $2 million Suzetta Place home, the neighbour said.
Zhong, a successful businesswoman with links to the wine and film industries, was reported missing on Saturday morning.
It is understood Zhong’s body was found that evening in the boot of her own black SUV, which was parked on Roadley Ave, about 500 metres from her home.
Police have confirmed the death was being treated as a homicide.
While formal identification is yet to be completed, police believe the body to be that of 55-year-old Elizabeth Zhong.
Residents on the street said they saw police roaming up and down the road all of Saturday and a blue tent was erected over the vehicle, which has since been removed.
Pink roses were placed at the spot Zhong’s body is believed to have been discovered.
Flowers were also left outside Zhong’s property, which had yellow emergency tape strung over the driveway as teams of forensic detectives combed through her home for evidence.
An autopsy was carried out on the body yesterday but police are yet to reveal further details, or confirm if the body is Zhong’s.
Another Suzetta Place resident said at about midnight on Halloween, October 31, Zhong was taken away in an ambulance due to a health condition.
“She was carried out in a stretcher but I don’t know any more than that,” the neighbour said.
The property had also recently been listed for a mortgagee sale with Barfoot & Thompson but was pulled off the market before going to auction.
One neighbour said a couple were regularly visiting Zhong after the man was arrested three years ago.
“They were good friends … and would sometimes mow her lawns,” one neighbour said.
“The woman would often take her out.”
Multiple neighbours said Zhong kept to herself and it sometimes looked like no one lived there.
Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown said Zhong’s death had shaken the close-knit Sunnyhills community.
“It does come as a shock as to what happened and my thoughts are with the friends and family of Elizabeth at this time.”
The Herald put questions to police about the sightings of the man and the historic arrest, but police are yet to respond.
One neighbour said she had reported the sightings to police only after the discovery of the body.
Zhong had recently met a new partner and been looking forward to living her life with him, according to a friend.
“The last time we met, she introduced me to her new partner and we also talked about her daughter and grandchild in Wellington, and she was looking forward to living her new life.”
Zhong came to New Zealand with her ex-husband and daughter in 1997. Her daughter now works for Treasury in Wellington.
Ex-husband Frank Fu would not comment when contacted by the Herald yesterday.
The Herald understand Zhong was also a close associate of the late Jihong Lu, and had been in talks with the controversial theatre promoter in the early stages about being part of the failed City of 100 Lovers production.
Zhong had also been active in working with investors from China, and hosting visiting delegations – such as one from Shanxi that came in 2018 – at vineyards she owned.
She was the sole owner and director of two wine-making companies now in receivership – Kennedy Point Vineyard on Waiheke Island and Carrick Wines in Central Otago.
Zhong was also the sole owner and director of film production company Digital Post Ltd, Digipost Entertainment and associated companies.
Digipost offers computer animation and graphics, film post production, sound mixing and visual effects services.
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