27 Oct 2020

Massey murder trial: Ex husband had plan to exact revenge, court hears

6:13 pm on 27 October 2020

A man accused of murdering his ex-wife with a hunting knife in broad daylight on a suburban West Auckland street has gone on trial.

Manchao Li in the Auckland High Court.

Manchao Li in the Auckland High Court. Photo: RNZ / Anneke Smith

Li Manchao is on trial in the High Court at Auckland after pleading not guilty to murder and breaching a protection order.

The 65-year-old is accused of attacking his ex-wife Yang Zhimin on Westgate Drive, Massey, around 8.30am on 29 July, 2019.

Crown prosecutor Nick Webby said Yang had been waiting to catch a bus to work when Li attacked her with a hunting knife.

"She didn't realise it at the time, at least not until it was too late, that she was being followed that morning by the man that would kill her."

The court heard Yang was stabbed 12 times in the face, neck, chest, stomach and arms on the suburban street and died at the scene.

A man working on a nearby construction site was among those who saw the attack; describing a man repeatedly striking a woman as she screamed for help.

It is the Crown's case that Li - her ex-husband - is responsible for her death, having become embroiled in a plan to exact revenge on Yang.

"He was a man that for good reason she was frightened of. She feared he would kill her if he knew where she lived," Webby said.

The jury heard Yang had married Manchao Li in China in 1997 and moved to New Zealand in 2001 before separating four years later.

Webby said their marital home in Blockhouse Bay was sold for $360,000 and Li gave Yang $30,000 before using the rest to buy a house in Christchurch.

Yang brought legal action to get some of the money back and a High Court judge eventually ruled in her favour, ordering the house be sold and profits split.

"That court's decision was bitterly resented by Manchao Li. The Crown says that was the catalyst, or the trigger, for a plan that he had to exact revenge on his ex-wife."

The court heard Li had breached a protection order Yang sought after their separation multiple times in the lead up to her death.

The 65-year-old is also responsible for targeted attacks at a rental property Yang was managing for her son, the Crown said.

Tenants at the address reported slashed car tyres, threatening letters and finding a dead rat and pigeon in their letterbox the month before she died.

Webby said Yang had a meeting with the tenants and a police officer and told them she suspected her ex-husband was behind the attacks.

"She told him of the long history between her and Mr Li, including the fact that she'd had a protection order against him since 2005.

"She advised him that she believed, or suspected, that he was responsible for the damage to the property, the dead animals and the letters as a way to get to her. She wouldn't be wrong."

Webby said conversations Li had with his flatmates and social workers showed he had planned and prepared to kill Yang.

"Over the months that she dealt with him she described him as always wanting to bring the justice. For him, his ex-wife did something wrong and didn't get punishment for it. He would tell [the social worker] he was going to chop the hands off the Massey librarian if the problems were not solved in two years."

The jury heard this conversation happened in May 2017, just over two years before Yang was fatally attacked.

Webby cited another conversation Li had with one of his flatmates after he had showed her a box of crowbars he had.

"He told her of a plan that he had. He was going to go the legal way first. He was going to contact immigration and then the media and have [Ms Yang] removed from New Zealand.

"He told her if there was no hope to solve his legal case he would just chop off her hands and feet or just stab her."

Li sat in the dock next to a Mandarin translator, appearing emotionless, as the Crown opened its case today.

The defence did not make an opening statement.

The Crown intends on calling almost 50 witnesses during the three-week trial before Justice Jagose and a jury of seven women and five men.