Nearly two weeks after body parts started turning up across the GTA, police are now calling the grisly slaying of Guang Hua Liu a domestic crime.
The victim’s estranged boyfriend, 40-year-old Chun Qi Jiang of Scarborough, is charged with second-degree murder.
Police said Liu had been in a relationship with Jiang, a construction worker, for about four years, but could not confirm when they ended things.
As news of the arrest spread Monday, more details of Liu’s mysterious life were revealed in interviews with family members.
Liu, 41, was the owner of Forget Me Not holistic spa on Eglinton Ave. E. near Midland Ave. Her remains were found spread along the Credit River in Mississauga and in West Highland Creek, a short walk from her Scarborough home.
Liu’s 21-year-old son described his mother as a woman with a complicated love life who had recently split up with a well-established professional from Peterborough — one of several men she had been dating, he told the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao.
The son, Dong Hao Liu, referred to the Peterborough man as his mother’s “Caucasian boyfriend.”
Liu came to Canada from China in 2002 and was a Canadian citizen at the time of her death. She has an ex-husband in China, whom she divorced in the 1990s, according to refugee documents. She has another ex-husband in Canada, whom she split with several years ago and divorced more recently, according to her son.
The son said his mother’s Peterborough boyfriend supported her financially and gave her $30,000 to start a business.
He said his mother planned to sell Forget Me Not because her boyfriend expressed his dislike of the business choice. Asked whether the massage parlour was a front for prostitution, Dong Hao Liu told Ming Pao he had no idea. Rumours that she was selling the business to return to China with her husband are untrue, he added.
In early August, Liu had a row with her Peterborough boyfriend and moved from his house to the townhouse in Scarborough, the son said.
The interview makes no mention of the accused, Chun Qi Jiang, who was charged after Ming Pao spoke to the son. He could not be reached for further comment about the arrest.
The accused is a Canadian citizen who emigrated from China in 2002 — the same year as Liu — and had no police record.
“He became a suspect early on,” Peel Regional Police Insp. George Koekkoek said Monday at a news conference.
Jiang appeared in court Monday morning and was remanded in custody until his next court appearance on Sept. 10.
Police are still trying to determine where and how Liu died. Investigators were searching for answers Monday in the Scarborough townhouse complex Jiang calls home.
The accused bought a brick townhouse in the complex on Brimwood Blvd. last fall for $280,000, records show.
The neighbourhood, near Finch Ave. E. and Brimley Rd., sits on a pleasant street corner adjacent to a small ravine. Paved pathways cut through neat yards that lead to rows of similar two-story townhouses with blue and maroon shutters.
Neighbours said Jiang kept to himself and that no one in the small complex knew him very well. He was often seen smoking or doing renovations in his backyard, laying concrete slabs and digging out a garden. He frequently had company, including many female guests, several neighbours said.
“There was always females coming in and out,” said Mustapha Abdullah, who lives in a townhouse nearby with his parents and brother.
But nothing about Jiang seemed unusual until a week ago, when the Abdullahs and other neighbours noticed the basement door to his townhouse was left wide open for several days.
“And his car was dented in the front and on the side. We thought that was weird,” said Malek Abdullah, Mustapha’s twin brother.
A few days later their mother, Salma Abdullah, had just returned from work when she noticed a man bent over a bucket in Jiang’s backyard, she said. The man, whose face she could not see, was wearing blue gloves and appeared to be scrubbing away at something on the ground. “That was two, three days ago,” she said.
Then on Sunday, police swarmed the neighbourhood, cordoning off Jiang’s townhouse with caution tape and parking police vehicles on the grassy courtyard in front of Jiang’s house.
Many residents assumed it was a drug bust. Most made the connection to the dismemberment homicide after watching the Monday morning news.
With files from Lesley Ciarula Taylor, Alexandra Bosanac, Curtis Rush and Jennifer Yang