B.C. model working in Shanghai found dead: friends

A young model from Saltspring Island, B.C., was found dead in Shanghai, China, her friends told CBC News on Monday.
Diana O'Brien was working for a modelling agency in Shanghai this summer, her friends told CBC. ((Barbara Coultish Model Management))

A young model from Saltspring Island, B.C., was found dead in Shanghai, China, her friends told CBC News on Monday.

Diana O'Brien, whose Facebook webpage says she was 22, had been in China since mid-June after landing a contract with a modelling agency in Shanghai.

RCMP confirmed Monday that they notified a Saltspring Island family of a death but refused to divulge any details or say whether the young woman was a victim of a homicide. Police said they are investigating her death.

"As of yet, the Chinese police are reluctant to divulge any information as it is an ongoing investigation and they must wait for results of an autopsy," Jesse Blanchette, one of O'Brien's friends, told CBC News.

Police in Shanghai had also started a murder investigation of their own but have not said how O'Brien was killed, her friends said.

O'Brien told to dance on podiums: friends

Several of O'Brien's friends, including her boyfriend, gathered at her Saltspring Island home Monday after learning of her death.

O'Brien had told friends she didn't like working in Shanghai and had bought an airline ticket to return to B.C. in two weeks, after finishing her last assignment.

O'Brien told friends that she did legitimate modelling work but was also asked to dance in bars as promotional work.

"She thought that was weird. It was right to one of these bars … the agency had her dancing on the podiums," Brittany Brown, one of O'Brien's friends, said Monday at O'Brien's house.

Friends set up a small shrine at Diana O'Brien's Saltspring Island, B.C., home after learning Monday of her death in China. ((CBC))

Brown said friends called various government agencies to try to find out what happened but "no one has called back.

"We need to get to the bottom of things and have some justice served for her and protect other girls from the same thing happening to them," Brown said.

O'Brien began modelling locally more than a year ago and a stint in Milan was her first big break, friends said.

O'Brien was one of 27 female international models listed on the website of Barbara Coultish Model Management, a Victoria-based modelling agency. She just finished three months of modelling in Milan and was in Shanghai this summer on contract work, according to the website.

A spokesperson for the agency refused an on-camera interview with the CBC but said nothing like this has ever happened in its 27-year business in the modelling industry.