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Millionaire businessman found guilty of Auckland grandmother's murder

Crown prosecutor Gareth Kayes gave graphic detail of Elizabeth Zhong's murder as the prosecution gave it's closing statements in the trial. Video / Pool

Crown prosecutor Gareth Kayes gave graphic detail of Elizabeth Zhong's murder as the prosecution gave it's closing statements in the trial. Video / Pool

By

Craig Kapitan

Senior Multimedia Journalist, NZ Herald

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A millionaire investor from China who watched his once-lucrative New Zealand businesses fail after moving to Auckland had been found guilty of stabbing to death the woman he blamed for his huge financial losses.

Jurors in the High Court at Auckland found Fang Sun, 48, guilty of murder today after nearly 10 hours of deliberation that started yesterday. Sun stared ahead with little emotion as the verdict was announced.

Prosecutors alleged during the six-week trial that Sun was furious enough at business partner Elizabeth Zhong, 55, that he broke into her Sunnyhills home around 4am on November 28, 2020, and brutally attacked her in her bedroom.

Zhong was stabbed more than 20 times, so violently that she was nearly decapitated, before her body was stuffed into a suitcase and transferred to the boot of her Land Rover. Police found her body that evening inside the blood-smeared SUV, which had been left on the side of the road in the East Auckland neighbourhood where she and Sun lived.

Sun and Zhong had been embroiled in a heated civil court battle over control of Sunbow Ltd, which included two movie companies and two wineries, for more than a year. During that time, creditors sold piece after piece of the business - with the High Court placing Sunbow into liquidation just weeks before Zhong's murder.

The defendant had accused Zhong of misappropriating money and blamed her for losing him and his family over $26 million, Crown prosecutor Gareth Kayes said during his opening address in April and again during his closing argument this week.

A private investigator Sun hired to follow Zhong testified that Sun blamed Zhong for ruining his life.

Defence lawyer Sam Wimsett argued this week that his client had no actual motive to kill Zhong because doing so would end all possibilities of him finding the misappropriated money he alleged in the civil case.

Sun was aware that Zhong had told multiple people, including police and the civil court, that he had threatened to kill her, Wimsett also said. His client wouldn't be stupid enough to commit a brazen murder knowing that he would be a prime suspect if harm came to her, he argued.

Wimsett also addressed data from an illegally placed tracking device on Zhong's Land Rover that showed the vehicle was parked near Sun's home for 15 minutes in the hours after the murder before it was abandoned on a nearby street. It made no sense that, with Sun knowing the tracking device was on the vehicle, he would have parked it near his own home, the defence argued.

Prosecutors, however, suggested that Sun was caught off guard after police arrived in the neighbourhood that morning much earlier than he was expecting, having been alerted that Zhong was missing by a close friend.

Zhong's daughter, friends and grandchildren gathered outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced. Her daughter, who has name suppression, said she wanted to defend her mother's honour.

Zhong was "an incredibly warm, caring, strong and smart woman" and kind to everyone she knew, her daughter said.

"I want to make it clear that my mum did not defraud anyone," she said. "In fact, my mum lost millions herself because she really believed in her businesses.

"It is my mum who is a victim of many lies, threats and she was brutally murdered. I need to stress that my mum is being used as a scapegoat even in her death to cover up for someone else's fraud.

"My defenceless mum was dragged through the mud and tormented in death. My mum deserves better than that. She deserves to rest in peace."

Justice Neil Campbell has set Sun's sentencing date for August 2.