MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - A single mother of three whose body parts were found scattered in Toronto-area waterways over the past week largely kept to herself, say neighbours in the townhouse complex where she lived and in the business plaza where she worked.
Guang Hua Liu, 41, was last seen by friends late in the afternoon on Aug. 10 after dropping her off in front of her "now-defunct spa" in east Toronto, Peel Regional Police said Tuesday at a news conference.
She was reported missing the next day and on Aug. 15 her right foot was found in the Credit River in Mississauga, Ont., about 45 kilometres west of where she lived in east-end Toronto.
Liu's head and hands were later discovered in the river in the Hewick Meadows Park area. And over the weekend, two calves, a thigh and an arm were found in West Highland Creek, just blocks away from her home.
Forensic tests have determined all of those remains belonged to Liu, but police still do not know how she died. They estimate the body parts had been in the water between five to seven days.
On Tuesday, residents in a quiet townhouse complex on Huntingwood Drive where Liu lived with an adult child were upset to hear one of their neighbours was now the victim of a homicide investigation.
Jason, who didn't want to give his last name, lived in the same row of houses as Liu. He said he didn't recognize her from her photo, but wasn't surprised because most people who lived in the area mainly kept to themselves.
He said there are many young families and elderly Chinese people in the complex.
Peel Insp. George Koekkoek said Liu had two younger children but they lived with their father.
Investigators are not yet speaking about suspects, but they say they don't believe at this point there are other victims.
"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."
A woman with a Toronto landlord firm that rented business space to Liu said she was the owner of a "holistic therapy" spa called Forget Me Not.
Liu signed a month-to-month agreement with Hanson Development Group in May and received a business licence in the same month, said the woman, who asked to not be identified.
"She was very nice and quiet.... (she'd) come in, hand in June and July rent cheques, say 'thank you' — that's it," the woman said, adding that Liu spoke to her through a translator.
The woman said that Liu had paid rent for August but not for September. She said nearby tenants saw police investigating the spa Monday. The spa is on the ground floor of a highrise residential building.
Imran Bachcha, a pharmacist who works next door to Liu's business, said the spa has been closed for nearly three weeks.
He said he often saw both men and women come and go at the spa and didn't believe it was an illegitimate business.
"Most of the time, the place is closed," said Bachcha, adding that he often saw Liu in the plaza parking lot but had never spoken with her. "We never had any problems."
Last weekend, police officers contacted his pharmacy to see if they could obtain surveillance footage from cameras he had installed inside and outside the store. They never came back to get the tapes, said Bachcha.
He said the owners of the block of storefronts next to the spa, which includes a doctor's office, a job recruitment centre and a dentist's office, have all been pretty shaken by the ordeal.
"I was so surprised to hear this happened," said Bachcha. "It's scary for me and really bad for me and the community."
A few doors down, Jong Soon Suh became tearful over the news about Liu's death.
"It's a nightmare," said Suh, who has owned a dry cleaning business in the complex for nearly 18 years. "It's very sad. She was the mother of three children."
Suh said last week, a Caucasian man came into her store with a missing poster of Liu. He was visibly upset and said that Liu was his girlfriend.
She said the spa had been owned by a married couple for the past few years until they sold it to Liu in May so they could go back to China. Suh said the new owner mainly kept to herself.
Liu was a Canadian citizen of Chinese descent and neither she nor her business were known to police.
Investigators have executed several search warrants, but police said those searches did not turn up any more body parts.
Police have finished searching the Credit River area in Mississauga, and Toronto police are expected to wrap up their search near the West Highland Creek today.
Peel police are asking for anyone with information on Liu, her activities or movements in the days leading up to her death to call them.
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