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Jury finds father of 'Pumpkin' guilty of murder

A NEW Zealander was found guilty yesterday of his wife's murder in a case that sparked an international manhunt after he abandoned his toddler at a train station and fled to the United States.

Xue Naiyin shouted, "I'm innocent, I'm innocent!" and pumped his fist in the air as the judge sent him into police custody for sentencing on July 31 at the High Court in Auckland. Some members of the all-women jury wiped away tears.

The jury found that Xue killed his 28-year-old wife, Liu An'an, in September 2007, then took their three-year-old daughter to Australia.

The girl, Xue Qianxun, was later found crying at a train station in Melbourne after her father abandoned her and fled to the United States. She was nicknamed "Pumpkin" because of the brand of clothing she was wearing.

Eight days after Xue fled, police found Liu's naked body in the trunk of Xue's car with a necktie around her neck.

The prosecution said she had been strangled to death.

US authorities launched a manhunt for Xue, who was captured nearly five months later by six Chinese Americans near Atlanta, Georgia, after the group recognized him from a newspaper.

Xue, 55, a martial arts expert and owner-publisher of the Auckland-based Chinese Times newspaper, was extradited to New Zealand to face the murder charge, which carries a life sentence.

Defense lawyer Chris Comeskey told the court Xue did not kill Liu, but said she may have died accidentally during a consensual sex act involving a tie. Xue did not know his wife was dead when he flew to Melbourne, he said.

Comeskey said Xue was "devastated" by the verdict.

Speaking outside the court after the verdict, inquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant Simon Scott said the toddler was "happy, healthy and thriving" with her grandmother in Changsha City in China.


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