Down syndrome woman Lena Zhang Harrap was murdered on the morning walk

A “beautiful, funny” New Zealand woman with Down’s syndrome was murdered on her morning walk in a “scary” act, police have said.

A man has been charged with sexual assault and murder of Lena Zhang Harrap, whose body was found at Auckland’s Mt Albert on Wednesday morning.

The 27-year-old – who had Down’s syndrome and impaired vision – was often seen walking up the mountain alone and left his house on September 22 around 06:00.

New Zealand police say she is likely to venture from Jersey Ave along Richardson Rd, before turning onto Grande Ave, where it was last seen on CCTV at 7.30am.

She never returned home. Her disappearance prompted an hour-long police investigation in front of a public discovered a woman’s body on a narrow track that connects Grande Ave with Summit Drive around 4.30pm yesterday.

On Thursday, the results of an autopsy on the police led to the start of a murder investigation and believed that the 130 cm tall woman was the victim of unpleasant play.

A 31-year-old man has now been arrested and is expected to appear in court on Friday, after the police found him in a vehicle in Papatoetoe, southern Auckland, around 01.30.

“Lena was a young lady, she was small in stature. She was vulnerable and who the perpetrator or perpetrators are, has targeted a vulnerable member of our society, which is just scary, says Detective Inspector Aaron Pascoe.

“We are determined to go to the bottom of this investigation and identify all or all of the people responsible for her death.”

Police had previously released pictures of a person of interest, who was caught on CCTV walking along Grande Ave shortly after 7.30. He was described as dark-skinned with a declining hairline and a distinct mark on his forehead. He was wearing a blue hoodie.

Anyone who saw him or Harrap that day, or anyone who has surveillance of the area, is asked to contact police.

Police will continue to knock on doors and investigate the area, Pascoe said.

Just 24 hours after the body was tragically discovered, flowers and hearty patches had been placed at the edge of the footpath and entrance to the mountain – a manifestation of the love that the Mt Albert community has for Harrap and her family.

Ms Harrap was strongly connected to her neighborhood. Many often saw her walking along Jersey Ave, up Mt Albert and New North Rd, and visited her.

Ms Harrap was “a beautiful, funny and wonderful soul,” said Michelle McGee.

“My heart aches at this moment for her and her family.

“She has touched the lives of so many other people as she did my own and my children, just with her presence or the gentle lady she was.”

Harrap went to Lynfield College and loved Star Jam classes, a former classmate told NZ Herald.

Alex Pervan remembered Ms Harrap style in cooking class, PE and for having found himself in places.

Her death has shocked the disabled.

“This is absolutely devastating news, and our society is currently doing it,” UpsideDowns told NZ Herald.

“UpsideDowns is currently working with the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association and the Auckland Down Syndrome Association on the next step.”

Mt Albert residents have made sure that the police do everything they can to make them feel safe.

“We know that the local community will be shocked and saddened. As a result, we have increased the security patrols in the area, as well as our investigation staff making door-to-door inquiries, says Pascoe.

Everyone with CCTV is encouraged to contact the Operation Daleyza investigation team. Anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area around Grande Ave, Summit Drive or the airwairaka domain on Wednesday morning is asked to contact the police.

– with the NZ Herald

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