'Vulnerable' woman 'killed while on her morning walk'

·3-min read

A New Zealand community is grieving the death of a 27-year-old woman, who police believe was killed on her morning walk.

At 4.30pm on Wednesday, the body of 27-year-old Lena Zhang was found in bushland off the side of a walkway between Grande Avenue and Summit Drive in Mt Albert.

New Zealand Police have now begun a homicide investigation.

"Lena was a young lady, she was small in stature. She was vulnerable and whoever the offender or offenders are, have targeted a vulnerable member of our community, which is just appalling," Detective Inspector Aaron Pascoe said.

Ms Zhang was reported missing on Wednesday, and while formal identification has not been completed, police believed the body found belonged to Ms Zhang.

Lena Zhang was killed on her morning walk in Mt Albert, New Zealand. Source: New Zealand Police
Lena Zhang was killed on her morning walk in Mt Albert, New Zealand. Source: New Zealand Police

At around 6.30am on the day of the murder, Ms Zhang left her Mt Albert home for her regular walk to Ōwairaka Domain.

New Zealand authorities are hoping to speak with anyone who saw Ms Zhang on her walk on Wednesday morning between 6.30 and 7.30am.

"Lena is around 130cm and has Down Syndrome and would have been seen walking at a slow pace," police said. 

"She was wearing a long-sleeved purple top and dark coloured pants."

Ms Zhang's death has devastated the local community and has residents on edge.

Lena Zhang left her home in Mt Albert at around 6.30am to go for her regular walk to Ōwairaka Domain on Wednesday. Source: New Zealand Police
Lena Zhang left her home in Mt Albert at around 6.30am to go for her regular walk to Ōwairaka Domain on Wednesday. Source: New Zealand Police

“It feels like the community is in shock and grieving," Mt Albert resident Aysha Blanchard told New Zealand's Stuff. 

"People walk in and around Mt Albert all the time including my family – and on some of those walks people are on their own, so there is an unsafe feeling now as well.”

StarJam, a not-for-profit, which offers young New Zealanders with disabilities dance and performance workshops paid tribute to Ms Zhang on Facebook.

"For over 12 years Lena has been a true Jammer in Auckland Magic Movers and more recently the Central Alumni All Stars; greeting everyone with her infectious smile, genuine heartfelt support and inviting her fellow Jammers up to join her Spot the Talents," the statement said.

'Lena you will always be in our hearts – our thoughts go out to your family and friends."

Police said Ms Zhang's family is "understandably devastated" and they are being provided with support, while requesting privacy.

Mt Albert residents says the community is in shock following Lena Zhang's death. Source: Facebook/StarJam
Mt Albert residents says the community is in shock following Lena Zhang's death. Source: Facebook/StarJam

Person of interest identified

Police have released images of a person of interest in Ms Zhang's death, after acquiring CCTV footage.

"This male, who is seen wearing a blue jumper, was captured on CCTV walking along Grande Ave shortly after 7.30am," police said. 

"He is described as dark-skinned, balding hair, a distinctive mark on his forehead and was wearing a mask."

Police have identified a person of interest (pictured). Source: New Zealand Police
Police have identified a person of interest (pictured). Source: New Zealand Police

Police are appealing to the public for information about the man's identity, so police can locate and speak with him, saying it is believed he could assist with the investigation. 

In addition to wanting to speak with anyone who saw the man or Ms Zhang, police are appealing to anyone who have CCTV cameras in the area.

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