A martial arts instructor who abandoned his young daughter at an Australian train station before fleeing to the United States denied today that he had strangled his wife before running from authorities.
"Not guilty. I am innocent," Nai Yin Xue said when the murder charge was read to him as his trial in a New Zealand court began.
The Chinese national is accused of strangling 27-year-old An An Liu in the northern New Zealand city of Auckland last September and dumping her body in the trunk of a car.
Liu was fearful of Xue, 55, who was unhappy she had not delivered him a son, prosecutor Aaron Perkins said.
Shortly before his wife's body was found, a security camera recorded Xue leaving his 3-year-old daughter at a train station in the Australian city of Melbourne before flying to the US, where he went into hiding.
The toddler's plight attracted international attention. Qian Xun Xue was nicknamed "Pumpkin" for the brand name on the clothes she was wearing when she was found. A New Zealand court later awarded custody to the girl's grandmother in China.
Xue was arrested in the US state of Georgia in February after a resident recognized him from media coverage. American authorities deported him for overstaying a 90-day visa.
Xue published a Chinese-language magazine in New Zealand and was a well-known figure in the ethnic Chinese community.
But Perkins described him as a man "who domineered over the deceased, regulated the number of friends she could have and was jealous of his wife."