A ride-sharing passenger in China has been raped and killed by a driver of the country’s largest ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, which is currently targeting the Australian market.

The 20-year-old woman got into a Didi carpool vehicle at 1pm (local time) on Friday and sent a message to a friend at 2pm seeking help before losing contact, police in Yueqing city, Wenzhou, said.

Police said they found the suspect, a 27-year-old driver called Zhong, at about 4am the following day.

They said Zhong confessed to raping and killing the passenger, and that the victim’s body had been recovered and an investigation was continuing.

Didi Chuxing, the biggest ride-sharing firm globally by number of trips, said in a statement it was “immensely saddened by the tragedy”.

“We are deeply sorry. We fell short of your expectations. We can’t and we won’t shirk from our responsibilities,” it stated.

The company – which has been valued at US$50 billion (A$68 billion) – is aggressively expanding overseas, targeting new markets in Australia, Mexico and Brazil, and is going head-to-head with Uber.

In 2016, Didi acquired Uber’s China business.

Didi has been stepping up safety measures including for its carpooling service, Didi Hitch, after the murder of a flight attendant in May sparked wider community outrage.

A day before the woman was raped and killed, a passenger had complained to Didi that the same driver had repeatedly requested that she sit in the front seat, Didi said.

The passenger claimed he drove to a remote area and followed her “for a distance” after she got out of the car.

Didi said the customer service representative who took the complaint had not followed up with an investigation within two hours, as the firm promised.