Neighbours remember "lovely" lady as fears rise in their West Auckland community

JASON DORDAY/Stuff.co.nz

Police will spend several days on a scene examination at a Te Atatu house where a pensioner was found dead.

Police say the death of a Te Atatu grandmother could be a burglary gone wrong. 

Police named the woman as 69-year-old Cunxiu Tian, saying she was found dead at her Glenvil Lane home by her daughter and son-in-law who also live at the address. This corrects and earlier statement that she was aged 70.

Detective Senior Sergeant Roger Small said the family was being supported and had requested privacy. 

Murder victim Cunxiu Tian who was killed in an apparent "burglary gone wrong" in Te Atatu, Auckland.
Police supplied

Murder victim Cunxiu Tian who was killed in an apparent "burglary gone wrong" in Te Atatu, Auckland.

"They are absolutely devastated. She was a loved mother and grandmother," he said. The family had lived in the community for a number of years.

Small said Police were still trying to establish the events of Friday and he refused to be drawn on how the Te Atatu grandmother died or specific injuries.

But he conceded a botched burglary was among a number of scenarios they were investigating.

He could not comment on whether the attacker was known to Tian or the nature of her injuries.

Her body was removed from the home on Saturday and police said they would have the results of a post mortem that evening.

"This is a shocking tragedy where an elderly woman has been killed in her family home."

He said there was no wider risk to the community.

A police man takes flowers handed over from members of the public at the crime scene.
Jason Dorday / FAIRFAX

A police man takes flowers handed over from members of the public at the crime scene.

"This is an isolated event. We're still trying to establish what has occurred."

Police expected to remain at the crime scene for a number of days.

Small made a plea for all residents in the area who saw any people or vehicles in the area on Friday to come forward.

Police gather at an address in Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland. A woman died in unexplained circumstances at a nearby property.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Police gather at an address in Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland. A woman died in unexplained circumstances at a nearby property.

"We are also asking for residents in the area who may have private CCTV systems to please check their surveillance for any unusual activity in their own properties or for movements of interest and please contact Police.

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"Even if you don't think it was anything out of the ordinary, we still want to hear from you."

He said there were so far no sightings of Tian between 9am and 5.30pm on Saturday when her family members arrived home.

Members of the public with Police and forensic staff at the scene of a homicide in Glenvil Lane Te Atatu
Jason Dorday

Members of the public with Police and forensic staff at the scene of a homicide in Glenvil Lane Te Atatu

"We need the community's help to assist police. We can't do this on our own."

One neighbour said she understood that police were looking for a weapon possibly discarded in a garden.

A neighbour of the Tian remembered her as someone who would always say hello and wave.

"It's just so sad for the lady. She was lovely."

The pair shared a love of gardening and would always greet each other, the neighbour said.

"She kept to herself and loved being in the garden."

The neighbour, who asked not to be named, said she was out on Friday so didn't hear or see anything.

Nearby residents have been rattled by the death and are taking extra care to lock their doors. 

Renee Connor visited her elderly mother-in-law, who lives close to the crime scene, to check all her doors and window fastenings. 

Police had visited to warn her to keep the home locked and windows shut, Connor said. 

"I rang her straight away when I heard about it just in case police came knocking on her door. 

"It's scary how close to home it is."

Do you know more about the incident? Email us at newstips@stuff.co.nz

Another resident who lived close by said the homicide had made her think twice about her safety. 

As a stay at home mum, she said she now felt anxious being home with her son during the day and was considering returning to work. 

The woman's car was broken into on the street a few weeks ago, in what previously felt like a safe neighbourhood, she said. 

Meanwhile neighbours have come together to support the family of Tian. A local florist donated flowers and an elderly woman made cards.

The woman who dropped off the flowers and card said it was an amazing community. "It has a pretty nice feel - like a village."

Robyn Babbington said she heard the police helicopter flying overhead and saw police cars parked on her street on Friday.

When she learnt what had happened she said:  "I was shocked."

She said she constantly reminded her grandchildren to keep their doors locked. Her grandson Manaia Babbington said he heard about the death while at the cricket and was worried about his grandmother, but was relieved to find her safe.

He said the death wouldn't change the way he felt about the neighbourhood. "I shouldn't feel unsafe in my own home."

A local resident who stood for hours outside the cordon trying to find out what happened said a police sniffer dog had been led through neighbouring properties.

Social media users said about 10 police cars were in attendance on Friday night and armed police appeared to be searching for something down the street.

Police said enquiries were in their early stages.

Anyone who observed people or vehicles in or around Glenvil Lane during the course of Friday should contact police with information.

People should contact Henderson police on 09 839 0600.

 - Stuff

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