Friends of a B.C. model killed in Shanghai said they have doubts about the story told by an 18-year-old Chinese man who confessed to stalking and slaying her.
Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, reported Friday that Chen Jun was arrested in Xuancheng City, several hundred kilometres west of Shanghai, around 8:15 a.m. local time.
Diana O'Brien, 22, of Saltspring Island, B.C., was found dead in her apartment building in Shanghai on Monday, two weeks after leaving for Shanghai for a three-month modelling contract with a talent agency.
Chinese police said Chen confessed to following O'Brien into her apartment Sunday night with the intention of robbing her and killed her when she resisted. The suspect then fled to another city in a nearby province before leaving for Xuancheng City, according to police.
However, some of O'Brien's friends told CBC News on Friday that she would have run if threatened and would not have tried to protect her possessions.
While the investigation in China continues, Joel Berry, O'Brien's boyfriend of five years, said he just wanted to bring her body home.
"Hopefully it's just one more step closer to her coming home," Berry said of the arrest of the suspect.
"It's kind of tough to plan a memorial for her when you don't really know where she is and how close she is to coming home," he said Friday.
"It just seems like we're so out of touch with it and helpless really. So, I think, just to have her back would kind of empower us a little bit and [we'll be] able to find some closure."
Botched robbery turns into killing: Xinhua
Earlier reports from those who discovered the body said O'Brien was stabbed and found lying in a pool of blood in the apartment building's stairwell, but police did not disclose the cause of death.
Chinese police said Friday their initial investigation shows the suspect's motive was money, according to Xinhua. It happened that O'Brien was home so they ran into one another and a botched robbery turned deadly, the news agency said.
Police said they found a laptop and other articles belonging to O'Brien, according to Xinhua.
O'Brien had been in China since mid-June after landing a contract with Jh Model Agency in Shanghai. The agency appears to have vanished since news of her death. No such name could be found at the listed address and the company's website has been inaccessible.
One of the woman's friends alleged O'Brien had been stalked by a Chinese man she met during a modelling job about a week before she was found dead. It's unclear whether the suspect is the same man her friend mentioned.
The Shanghai gig was through Victoria-based modelling agency Barbara Coultish Model Management, and came after O'Brien had worked several months in Milan.
O'Brien's friends said she went to China to further her career prospects, but was unhappy with the assignment and planned to return to B.C. in two weeks — before the end of her three-month contract.
Some friends told media that O'Brien was upset about work promoting a whisky brand by dancing on podiums in bars, though her longtime boyfriend said her planned early return was prompted by homesickness.