Just months after opening her own business in Scarborough, Liu Guang Hua was saying she planned to shut it down and move back to China with her former husband when she disappeared and her body parts were found at opposite ends of Toronto.
Police have described Ms. Liu as a 41-year-old mother of three, a Canadian of Chinese origin whose two youngest children lived with her estranged husband. Acquaintances have told reporters Ms. Liu had a boyfriend in Toronto named Ken.
However, Ms. Liu had told her landlord that she was closing her business so she could be with her husband, according to Jong Soon Suh, the owner of a dry-cleaning shop in the same building.
A licensed holistic practitioner, Ms. Liu became the owner of the Forget-Me-Not Health Care spa in May. Neighbours saw little business there. Some complained to the city about concerns it was a front for illegal activities.
"They were never opened so I asked my landlord 'What's going on in there?' right?" Ms. Suh told The Globe and Mail.
"And they say, someone took over the business in the middle of May. But this lady, she has to go to China because her husband [is] going to China and she had to follow her husband."
Ms. Liu came to Canada from Changle in Fujian province, according to the Toronto Chinese-language paper Ming Pao.
After she opened the spa, neighbours became suspicious about the lack of activity there and called local city councillor Michael Thompson. "It's unusual when they set up for business and they don't open for business," Mr. Thompson said in an interview.
He said licensing and zoning inspectors visited the spa several times and made contact with Ms. Liu, who said her business was up for sale. "It didn't appear there were any violations of our regulations."
Ms. Liu was last seen alive when a friend dropped her off at the spa on Aug. 10 around 6:30 p.m.
The next Wednesday, hikers found a foot with yellow-painted toenails in Mississauga's Hewick Meadows Park, about 45 kilometres west of where Ms. Liu lived in east-end Toronto. Police later recovered a head and two hands from the Credit River. Then, on the weekend, more human remains were discovered in Scarborough's West Highland Creek, which is within walking distance of Ms. Liu's home.
Peel police said on Tuesday that Ms. Liu was killed and dismembered.
On Monday, police executed a search warrant in a room at the Scarborough Inn, near the creek where some of Ms. Liu's remains were found, according to CTV News.
A few doors down from the spa Ms. Liu owned, Ms. Suh teared up when she heard about Ms. Liu's death. "It's a nightmare," said Ms. Suh, who has owned her dry-cleaning business for nearly 18 years.
Ms. Suh said a man came into her store with a missing poster of Ms. Liu last week. He was visibly upset and said that Ms. Liu was his girlfriend.
A Canadian citizen, Ms. Liu lived in a townhouse in Scarborough near Huntingwood Drive and Kennedy Road with her adult son. Her two younger children lived with their father.
Jean, a neighbour who declined to give her last name, said Ms. Liu's son goes by the name of Danny. She believes Danny is in his early 20s. Ms. Liu also had a tenant, Jean said.
With a report from Ann Hui