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August 1, 2009

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Father of 'Pumpkin' jailed

A NEW Zealander of Chinese origin was yesterday sentenced to life in prison for his wife's murder in a case that sparked an international manhunt after he abandoned his toddler daughter at a train station in Australia and fled to the United States.

Xue Naiyin would serve a minimum 12 years before becoming eligible for parole, Justice Hugh Williams said as he sentenced him in the High Court in Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city.

Xue, who shouted "I'm innocent, I'm innocent!" and pumped his fist in the air when the jury's verdict was announced in June, remained stony-faced and silent yesterday as the sentence was pronounced.

Justice Williams said he had taken into account Xue's history of violence toward his wife when considering the sentence. A life sentence in New Zealand normally means 10 years in prison.

In June a jury found that Xue strangled his 28-year-old wife, Liu An'an, in September 2007, then took their daughter to Australia.

Xue Qianxun, 3, was found crying at a train station in the southeastern city of Melbourne. She was nicknamed "Pumpkin" because of the brand of clothing she was wearing.She now lives with her grandmother in China.

Eight days after the father fled, police found Liu's naked body in the trunk of his car in New Zealand.

Xue Naiyin, 55, a martial arts expert and owner-publisher of the Auckland-based Chinese Times newspaper, was extradited to New Zealand from the US to face the murder charge. His lawyer, Chris Comesky, said his client would appeal.


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