AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A New Zealand toddler allegedly abandoned by her fugitive father as he fled her mother’s murder will live in China after a court Thursday granted custody to her grandmother.
Qian Xun Xue, 3, became known as “Pumpkin” after the make of clothing she was wearing when found abandoned and crying for her mother at a train station in the southern Australian city of Melbourne last month.
Chief Family Court Judge Peter Boshier in Auckland on Thursday granted custody of the girl, who has been in welfare care, to her grandmother Xiaoping Liu.
“After the indescribably sad events which have seen her abandoned and then deprived of her mother, I can think of no better solution than to commit her to now be nurtured and deeply loved by her grandmother,” Boshier said.
The girl has an adult half-sister in New Zealand, who did not seek custody but who the court agreed should be allowed to visit the toddler and have contact via e-mail and post.
Xiaoping Liu lives in central China’s Hunan province and has said previously she would take the child back there. She had asked the court to cancel guardianship rights for the toddler’s father, Xue Naiyin, but Boshier ruled against doing so “for the time being.”
“To remove a guardian is a most drastic step and before it can be considered justified due process requires me to endeavor to secure the views of the father,” he said.
Xue, 54, is the prime suspect in the death of his wife, 27-year-old Anan Liu, whose body was found in the trunk of his car five days after security camera footage of Qian Xun being abandoned triggered an investigation.
A man authorities believe to be Xue was shown leaving Qian Xun at the station on Sept. 15, and was traced to a flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles later that day.
American authorities are seeking Xue over Qian Xun’s abduction and the woman’s death. New Zealand has sent the U.S. an arrest warrant for him.
Xue is the publisher of a Chinese-language magazine in New Zealand and a well-known figure in the ethnic Chinese community in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.
Family members agreed earlier this week that half-sister Grace Xue, who was unaware of her relative until the case received wide international media attention, should play a part in the girl’s life.
She met Qian Xun for the first time at an emotional meeting in Auckland on Monday.
Grace Xue made no comment to reporters outside the court, and Xiaoping Liu left in secret after seeking help from the court to protect her from the media glare.