Locals offer flowers and prayers for Chinese woman missing from Sydney suburb
Housemate arrested, charged with Qi Yu’s murder and made court appearance
A candlelight gathering was held on Friday evening for a Chinese woman missing for three weeks in a Sydney suburb.
Chinese national Qi Yu, 28, was last seen on June 8 by friends in Campsie, southwest Sydney, where she lived in a house shared with other tenants. She reportedly had last spoken on the telephone to members of her family in China at 7.15pm on the evening of her disappearance, and was reported missing the next day.
Her car, a white Toyota Corolla, was found in the suburb of Burwood.
On June 13, Qi’s 19-year-old housemate, Shuo Dong, was arrested and charged with her murder. He later made an appearance at Burwood local court, according to police.
Police believe her body could have been dumped in bushland in Berowra, over 40 kilometres north of Campsie, but weeks of searching by the authorities and local residents have turned up no sign of the woman.
“The body of Qi Yu has yet to be found, however, police are treating this as a murder investigation and are searching for her body in bushland,” Matthias Zierholz, team leader of New South Wales police missing persons unit told the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.
Friday’s gathering, was organised by Berowra resident Kate Glenn, at a local sports ground. A total 92 people had said they were attending on a Facebook Event named “Qi Yu Community Gathering of Support.”
The group invited the community to offer flowers, light a candle or pray in support for the family, and as a way to acknowledge everyone who had come together in the search. “We changed the name to a ‘gathering’ rather than a ‘vigil’ as a measure of respect to Qi Yu’s family, who still hold out hope that she will be found alive.” She said the group decided to use pink flowers instead of white, a colour traditionally associated with funerals in China.
Investigators involved with the case were expected to be in attendance.
“We were told we were free to ask any question to the police officers, the SES [State Emergency Service], and the local members of parliament that attended,” one person at the gathering, who asked not to be named, told the South China Morning Post.
“I live in the community in Berowra where Qi Yu’s body is thought to have been dumped and it is a long way from where she stayed,” said Rachael Wang, another person at the gathering. “I have seen helicopters circling in the air in our suburb many times and police searching on horseback. There have been lots of bush walks organised through our community chat group.”
“I was moved by their passion to help police search for Qi Yu’s whereabouts voluntarily,” she added.
“The community gathering of support was very quiet. The Berowra district is very much a family area entirely surrounded by rugged bushland with around 14,000 residents. There were about 200 people present including friends of Qi. When the sports ground lights were turned off many people laid flowers and lit candles.” Nathan Tilbury, the person attending the gathering said.
The area is very safe with people feeling free to walk around even at night. Most people live outside Berowra because of the beautiful bushland. The someone could use such stunning terrain as a place to cover up a horrible crime has upset many locals. Everyone just wants the investigation concluded especially for the sake of the family, Tilbury said.
At the event a few words were spoken before the lights went out for people to deal with their emotions in their own way. Tilbury described it as very quiet and respectful.
Earlier this week her parents, who have flown from China to help in the search, issued an emotional plea.
“Both of us can’t sleep every night,” Qi’s father, Zhihe Yu, said at a press conference in Sydney on Tuesday. “My wife’s tears run dry.”
“We want to ask for everyone’s help – if you have any information regarding my daughter’s whereabouts, please contact the police,” her father said.
It remains unclear what Qi’s occupation was in Australia.