Slain Toronto spa owner had planned move to China
A single mother from Toronto had plans to move overseas before she vanished and parts of her body were discovered in two separate cities.
Investigators are working to piece together the final movements of Hua Guang Liu from security videos and interviews.
Liu, 41, was reported missing on Aug. 11. On Tuesday, Peel Regional Police confirmed her remains were the ones recovered from a river in Mississauga and a creek in Toronto in the days following her disappearance.
Liu, a Canadian citizen of Chinese descent, was a mother of three. She had been operating a spa in a Scarborough mall. The spa is no longer in business.
Former Toronto homicide detective Michael Davis said it is likely that police will probe Liu’s finances, her family and the relationship she had with her clients as they continue their investigation.
Peel Insp. George Koekkoek said two of Liu's children are young and live with their father.
Records show that Liu purchased a 2011 Toyota Yaris in September 2011 and was the sole buyer of a townhouse located on Huntingwood Drive in east-end Toronto in October of 2008.
Koekkoek said investigators have searched Liu's home, as well as a motel in Scarborough that may be linked to her death.
"We are working on suspect information," he said.
Police said that although what happened to Liu is horrific, it is "an isolated case."
"We have no reason to believe that this is anything other than an isolated case and that's the focus of our investigation thus far," Koekkoek said. "We're satisfied to this stage that there's no threat or danger to the public safety. If we have information to the contrary, we'll be the first to advise."
The spa that Liu operated was known as Forget Me Not.
Toronto Coun. Michael Thompson said city inspectors checked out the spa after receiving a handful of resident complaints about the business.
When inspectors arrived at the business in mid-July the spa didn't appear to be operating," he said. Zoning and bylaw officials found nothing improper, but noted they had trouble finding Liu at the spa.
"When our officers were able to speak to her she did inform them that she was in the process of selling her business," he said.
'I knew it was her'
Helen Savo-Sardaro, the building manager for the complex where the spa was located on Eglinton Avenue, told CBC News that police told her Liu left the spa at 5:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 10 — the day she disappeared.
Savo-Sardaro said she knew the identity of the victim was when police revealed details about what they had found.
"As soon as I heard it was yellow toenails, I knew it was her," she said.
Savo-Sardaro was also a client at the spa. She said Liu ran a legitimate business and was very professional.
Imran Bachcha, a pharmacist who works next door to the former spa, said police have requested access to the video recorded by on-site security cameras.
Bachcha told CBC News that police were interested in whether the cameras covered the exterior of the pharmacy.
They told him they were "doing some major investigations regarding that missing woman," but Bachcha said they hadn't been back yet to get the tapes.
'The store never opened'
Jong Soon Suh, the owner of a dry cleaning business located in the same complex for 18 years, said the former spa owner told her Liu was planning to leave Canada just months after opening the spa because her former husband had decided to relocate to China for work.
Suh also said that she had become aware of Liu taking over the property in mid-May and was concerned with the spa because she never saw any customers enter and the front window was covered with a curtain.
"The store never opened. There was no opening sign and nobody was in there," she said. "When I passed by, the curtain was a little bit different shape than the other day. So I [kept] an eye on it and the next day it was a little bit different also … so that means someone gets in and gets out."
Suh said she had spoken with other business owners who also said they had never seen the spa open, while the previous owners had signs in front of the business to attract customers.
Friends said that the evening Liu went missing she was scheduled to meet a prospective buyer.
Shan Shanmugavadivel, a dentist at Rainbow Village Dental Office in the same complex, said he would see the previous owner in the parking lot, but never saw Liu in the area.
"I saw a sign that said 'new management' but other than that I never met her and I never saw her," he said.
Shanmugavadivel said that he rarely saw customers or employees of the spa entering or exiting the building.
With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Jeff Semple