Australians gripped by an image of innocence abandoned

IT IS an image that haunts Australia. A little girl in a red jacket is led through a railway station and to the centre of a mystery that spans three countries.

Pumpkin, as the three-year-old was nicknamed on account of her Pumpkin Patch vest, was abandoned by her father in Melbourne. He then fled to Los Angeles.

Detectives have expressed "grave, grave fears" for the safety of the girl's mother. They believe her depressed father - who has a history of violence - may have murdered the woman.

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Qian Xun Xue, as the child was later identified, was discovered alone at Melbourne train station on Saturday.

CCTV footage revealed the moment when a man, believed to be her father, Naiyin Xun Xue, let go of her hand and left her at the foot of an escalator as he ascended, wheeling a suitcase.

He flew on to the United States less than three hours later. She was found alone and crying.

Police in New Zealand and Australia were yesterday trying to track down Qian's mother Anan 'Annie' Liu, 27.

She has not been seen for over a week, amid growing fears that she may have been killed by her husband.

Mr Xue, 54, the director of New Zealand's Chinese Times newspaper, is a martial arts expert with a history of domestic violence.

The couple had separated three months ago, but reconciled in August.

Ms Liu's car was discovered yesterday at Auckland international airport and police were last night carrying out forensic examinations at the couple's home in the city.

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Detective Sergeant Simon Scott, of Auckland Police, said: "We are taking her disappearance very seriously. We have grave, grave concerns for her safety."

The authorities believe Mr Xue drove the vehicle to the airport last Thursday.

Yet in a strange twist he had already visited a police station beforehand. Police would only say that he was "returning some property".

Hong Kong-born Mr Xue and his daughter then flew to Melbourne where they arrived at 7:45pm on Thursday and checked into a hotel for two nights.

On Friday, Mr Xue visited a travel agent, where he bought a single return ticket to Los Angeles. The following day, he visited the Melbourne train station and abandoned his daughter at 8am, before flying out to Los Angeles at 10:45am.

The little girl was taken into care. She is now being looked after by a foster family in Victoria. She can speak a few words of English and asks for her mother.

Inspector Brad Shallies, of Victoria state police, said: "The girl remains calm and composed. Sometimes she spikes in emotions when she wakes up and mum's not there, but the carers settle her back into a routine."

Det Sgt Scott added: "We are concerned that Anan has not been able to contact us in relation to her daughter, and we have had contact with Mr Xue and Anan over the last 12 months over violent domestic violence issues. We have recovered some items of interest from her address but nothing that indicates where Anan is."

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Ms Liu had no relatives in New Zealand but had family in China. Police were trying to contact her mother overseas.

A friend in New Zealand, Nai Quan Xie, said he had not heard from Mr Xue or his wife since last Tuesday. He had tried phoning frequently but got no answer.

He said: "I heard he is not quite a happy man at this stage. He feels a loss of interest in business and family, very depressed. It could be that he feels no hope, that the family is not very happy."

Pansy Wong, a New Zealand MP, said Mr Xue was an active member of the Chinese community and that his wife was a very private person.

"The mother and daughter are obviously very close. She is very sweet."


THE father of one of Britain's brightest children last night pleaded for the boy to return home. Andrew Gosden, who is a member of the government's Young, Gifted and Talented programme which caters for the top 5 per cent of learners aged four to 19, vanished on Friday.

The 14-year-old withdrew his savings, bought a one-way ticket from Doncaster to London and was last seen on a train.

His worried father, Kevin - who described Andrew as a "walking calculator" - said he might have left to visit museums, adding: "He has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

I would ask him to let us know he's safe and we can begin to deal with whatever's bothering him."

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