'Like an angel': Michelle Leng's family arrive at court after uncle charged with murder

Natasha Christian

Surrounded by family and friends, the mother of Michelle Leng arrived at court on Wednesday, where her brother-in-law faced charges of murdering her daughter.

Derek Barrett, 27, is accused of stabbing the 25-year-old business graduate to death.

He did not appear before a packed Burwood Local Court, as members of the Chinese community and Chinese media crowded in to hear the outcome.

Michelle Leng.

Magistrate Jacqueline Trad adjourned the matter until June 29.

Ms Leng's mother, supported by her sister who is married to the accused, left the court on Wednesday, bypassing media.

Fairfax reports a family representative, Peter Chen, told media the Leng family had been devastated by the death and would be fighting any attempts by Barrett to seek bail.

“We loved this lady, Michelle was a good person, like an angel,” he said.

Michelle Leng. Photo: Instagram
Murder accused Derek Barrett faced court on Saturday. Photo: 7 News.

Mr Chen condemned reports of speculation that Ms Leng had met with a boyfriend online before her death.

He asked that the media stop spreading ‘fake information’.

"[There have] been lots of stories, some of them not true and the family are very saddened by this."

Barrett’s lawyer, William Whitby also addressed the media, professing his client's innocence.

“Absolutely, he will be pleading not guilty,” he said.

Mr Whitby said he would be proceeding with a bail application for Barrett at a future court appearance.

He indicated his client was not coping well with incarceration.

“Obviously he is very upset, shocked. He's not finding the Sydney Police Centre particularly attractive. It's a terrible place to be incarcerated and I can only hope he will be moved in the near future.”

It’s alleged Barrett murdered the 25-year-old Chinese student in his Campsie home in south-western Sydney.

Ms Leng’s body was dumped in the ocean more than 100km away.

Her naked body was discovered floating face-down in a Snapper Point blowhole in the Lake Munmorah national park on Sunday, April 24.

She had been stabbed at least 20 times.

Ms Leng remained unidentified for three days until police matched a computer-generated image of her with a missing person's report.

It’s alleged Barrett’s mobile phone was intercepted at Doyalson, on the Central Coast, 25 minutes before her body was discovered by a tourist, about 10km away.

It’s understood he was originally from the Central Coast town of Gwandalan, approximately nine kilometres from the blowhole.

The area is popular among tourists and fishers.

Michelle Leng. Photo: Facebook.

Ms Leng’s mother flew to Sydney from China on the weekend after homicide detectives informed her of the devastating news.

Ms Leng, also known as Mengmai, relocated to Australia five years ago from Sichuan province in south-west China.

She studied business at the University of Technology in Sydney.

Ms Leng had lived with Barrett (her uncle), his 48-year-old wife and her cousin.

It’s believed her aunt and cousin were not home when the alleged attack happened.

She was last seen by friends on April 21, waiting for a bus outside the university, where she was taken for an afternoon of shopping in Pitt Street Mall.

CCTV showed Ms Leng shopping at Pitt Street Mall on Thursday. Photo: NSW Police

Police released CCTV of Ms Leng carrying her shopping through the mall about 3pm that afternoon.

She was later seen for a final time arriving at Campsie station about 4.30pm.

Police believe Ms Leng continued to communicate with her friends until late on Thursday night, after which her mobile phone activity and social media accounts fell silent.

It’s believed Ms Leng’s mother will address the media on Thursday before flying home to China.

If you or someone you know is suffering from sexual or domestic abuse, don't suffer in silence, call 1800 RESPECT any time of day or night.