Man who killed wife with cleaver denied parole

Shunlian Huang was murdered by her husband Zeshen Zhou in 2005.
Shunlian Huang was murdered by her husband Zeshen Zhou in 2005.
"I chopped up my wife," Zeshen Zhou told police when they turned up after neighbours heard screams coming from his house.

The murder of his spouse earned him life in prison with no parole for 17 years - a period of time that has now come to an end.

But Zhou is not yet ready to be released, according to a recent Parole Board decision.

When police were called to Zhou’s house in Papatoetoe in 2005, they found he had struck his wife Shunlian Huang nearly 80 times with a meat cleaver before caving in her head with a hammer.

He then finally stabbed her with a knife.

Huang had suffered 36 chopping blows to her head, six or seven stab wounds to her neck, which severed her windpipe, and another six stab wounds to her left breast which penetrated her lung.

Zhou moved his wife’s body from the kitchen to the bathroom where he put her in the shower to minimise the mess.

When the case went to trial in late 2006, the High Court at Auckland heard how Huang was likely alive for 11 minutes after the attack began.

The couple had spoken of separating and the day Huang was murdered the couple had spoken to a realtor about listing their house.

At trial, witnesses said Huang did not like Zhou gambling, nor the fact he was unemployed.

Before she died she had gone to an ATM to check their account balances and she had told him if they were overdrawn, their marriage was over.

Their joint account had a credit balance of $44 and Zhou’s personal account was $1000 overdrawn.

Police told the court Zhou admitted the killing and told them "I chopped up my wife" when they arrived at the scene.

Justice Judith Potter handed Zhou a mandatory life sentence for the murder with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Zhou unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the sentence the following year on the grounds that he’d been provoked into murdering Huang after she’d told him she was in love with somebody else.

In 2022, that minimum period of imprisonment expired and Zhou first qualified for an early release. However, he conceded at that hearing that parole wasn’t possible as he didn’t have a plan for his release.

Prison staff said he was a good worker and a psychologist assessed him as being at low risk of violent reoffending at the time but recommended he complete a rehabilitation programme with a Mandarin-speaking facilitator.

Zhou was declined parole and came up for his second appearance before the board in February this year.

However, he arrived at Auckland prison only a day before his hearing, to be assessed for the programme the board recommended he take 18 months earlier.

Once he’s finished that programme he’ll be transferred back to Northland where he can start reintegration programmes to ease him back into the community.

"Having regard to the seriousness of his offending, the board is of the view that Mr Zhou needs to complete the programme in his present environment before engaging in a period of reintegration," the board said in its decision released to NZME.

"At present, he remains an undue risk to the safety of the community and parole is declined."

The board recommended Zhou work with his case manager to create a release plan and will see him again in February 2025.

 - Jeremy Wilkinson, Open Justice reporter