Murdered Thai was quitting NZ
28.10.2004 By LOUISA CLEAVE
Slain businesswoman Darunee Aphiromlerk planned to return to Thailand on her own next year, say her friends and family.
Ms Aphiromlerk, a property trader, was last seen on October 3 and her last known movements included a large number of phone calls which stopped around 9.30pm.
Her body was found last week in the Waikato River, wrapped in a duvet from her Manurewa home. Police have not said how she was killed.
Ms Aphiromlerk was yesterday remembered as a dedicated Christian who travelled the city preaching to members of the Thai community.
A memorial service attended by 100 people was held at the Jehovah's Witness church in Manurewa.
Church elder Kieun Kim told the congregation Ms Aphiromlerk's faith was "the way of her life".
She had lived in New Zealand for 13 years and was baptised in 1993.
She had been part of a group of church members who would go door-to-door preaching in the Thai language.
Mr Kim told the Herald that Ms Aphiromlerk had spoken of selling her properties and returning to Thailand next year.
"That was the plan she told her brother. That was the plan that she told her friends here and friends in Thailand. She felt she would be more useful for her faith back in Thailand."
Mr Kim said Mr Aphiromlerk had encouraged his sister to return home.
"I think he felt uncomfortable having his sister living on her own in a foreign country. He encouraged her to come back and offered for her to live at his place. But in my communications with her friends in Thailand, they say she was planning to buy a home close to them and be quite engaged in the ministry. So we were quite happy she wanted to do that and encouraged her as well."
Members of the church had been surprised by reports she was romantically involved with a South Auckland lawyer, Martin Coogan.
The friends understood Mr Coogan was simply her lawyer. She had told people he proposed marriage in the past but she had rejected the proposal.
Detective Senior Sergeant Gary Lendrum said some friends and Ms Aphiromlerk's brother, Paisarn, believed her intention was to return home permanently and move in with a female friend.
Mr Lendrum said he understood Mr Coogan had proposed to Ms Aphiromlerk in the past.
He had told police their relationship was becoming closer and stronger.
Mr Coogan did not want to discuss the couple's plans yesterday.
"We had talked about a few things. I just don't want to get into it right now."
The Herald understands Mr Coogan was considering becoming a Jehovah's Witness in order to marry Ms Aphiromlerk and she kept their relationship secret because he was not involved in the church.
Police are building up a picture of the victim's life and business connections.
Mr Lendrum said the Thai community had responded well to a police appeal for people who knew Ms Aphiromlerk to contact them, and a Thai-speaking police officer was joining the inquiry team.
A search of the river bank in the area where her body was found was carried out yesterday but did not turn up any items of interest, he said.
Police have no firm leads and "no idea" who had committed the murder, he said.
"There are a lot of persons of interest but I couldn't elevate any of those people to suspects."