Nurse found dead at Circuit Road: Uncle says she was village's pride

She had always been good in her schoolwork.

And when Chinese national Zhang Huaxiang received a scholarship in 2009 to study nursing in Singapore and then joined the National University Hospital (NUH) in 2013, she became the pride and joy of Xiangxi village in Hunan, China.

But the 28-year-old woman never got to fulfil her potential.

Miss Zhang was strangled on March 20 and her body was left in a rental flat in Block 70, Circuit Road, for two days. It is understood that her mobile phone and laptop were missing.

Her body was found by the unit's landlord on March 22.

He had gone to check the unit after his tenant, Miss Zhang's Malaysian boyfriend, who is believed to be from Malacca, said he was going across the Causeway on a business trip.

A 47-year-old man was arrested by Malaysian police on Monday and extradited to Singapore on Tuesday evening for allegedly killing Miss Zhang. He will be charged in court today with murder. (See report on facing page.)

NOT AWARE

Miss Zhang's parents were informed of her death by Chinese police on March 23, a day after she was found.

Initially, they thought she had died in an accident.

It was only when they went to the mortuary to collect her body on Saturday, after arriving here from China, that they discovered she had been allegedly strangled by her boyfriend.

"We didn't even know she had a boyfriend," her uncle, Mr Sun Daiquan, 48, told Chinese evening paper Lianhe Wanbao.

In a separate interview with The New Paper yesterday, he said Miss Zhang would call home once a month, sometimes more often, when it was Chinese New Year or her parents' birthdays.

But not once did she mention that she had a boyfriend.

"She didn't even tell her younger sister, with whom she was very close," he said, adding that Chinese New Year's Eve was the last time she spoke to her family.

Mr Sun said his niece was the first person from Xiangxi village to get a scholarship overseas and everyone there treated her as its pride and joy.

"She was an outgoing person who was willing to go all out to help others. She always had a smile. We will all miss her, especially her parents," he said.

Her colleagues at NUH are also grieving for her.

The hospital's assistant director of nursing, Ms Usha Menon, told TNP that Miss Zhang was "cheerful and conscientious".

"(She) was always there to lend a helping hand. She was well liked by her colleagues. We will miss her," she said.

Knowing that Miss Zhang's family could not afford to pay for her funeral, her colleagues got in touch with undertaker Roland Tay, founder of Direct Funeral Services, who handled the funeral service for free.

According to Mr Sun, it is a tradition that unmarried women cannot be buried in the village, so Miss Zhang was cremated on Monday and her ashes will be scattered at sea here on a later date.

Initially, Mr Sun and Miss Zhang's parents wanted to be in court today, when the man suspected of killing her is charged with murder, but they have changed their minds.

"I have to handle her estate and insurance so I won't be there. Her parents are still grieving and the wounds are still too raw and painful," Mr Zhang said.

juditht@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 7, 2016.
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