crime

Ecuador gov't offers $200,000 reward for killers of Japanese honeymooner

34 Comments

The Ecuadorean government has doubled the reward being offered for information leading to the arrest of the gang that fatally shot a Japanese honeymooner and left his wife seriously injured. On Saturday, the government offered a reward the equivalent of $100,000 but on Sunday doubled it to $200,000.

The couple, identified as Tetsuo Hitomi, 28, and his wife Mariko, 27, were married in Japan on Dec 22. They were in Guayaquil on their honeymoon when they were shot on Dec 28.

According to Japanese media reports, the couple had finished dinner at a restaurant and hailed a taxi to take them back to their hotel. Somewhere along the way, they were attacked by a gang of eight, NHK reported. Tetsuo was shot in the chest and died at the scene, while Mariko was shot in the abdomen and leg and remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

The taxi driver disappeared. Police said that many taxi drivers in the city belong to gangs and use their taxis to lure tourists to spots where they can be ambushed.

The Japanese embassy in Ecuador has warned tourists not to hail taxis on the street but instead ask the hotel concierge to make arrangements for them.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was shown on TV on Saturday night saying that the crime reflected badly on the country and would negatively impact the tourism industry. He warned the killers that they will be brought to justice, NHK reported.

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34 Comments
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There's really no excuse for Ecuador to have such a high crime/murder rate, and yet it does. Its murder rate is actually more than four times higher than the US rate, and the US already has the highest rate in the entire developed world. That's shameful.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Very sad for this young Japanese couple, RIP and I do hope the wife survives and can over come this horrible tragedy in Ecuador.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

"They were in Guayaquil"...which is the most popular departure point for the Galapagos Islands, which is were this couple were presumably going. Scumbag taxi driver it appears did them in. Real tragedy for this adventurous couple. One can only hope Mariko recovers physically and mentally.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Makes me angry to read stories like this. Life cut short, future happiness stolen for a few dollars. Bring on the ninjas.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Japanese tourists need a safety awareness and education; Japanese common sense is only good within Japan, prior to foreign trip.

It is very important everyone maintains a low profile avoiding all expensive Rolex watch, Gucci handbag that make you stand out. You need to do opposite instead and be alert to see what's going on around you. You need to have more than two eye balls, that's what I mean.

My wife and I have saved many vulnerable Japanese young ladies who were a obvious rape target in US cities in the past. They have no fear in ignorance.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

@ couversaka There's really no excuse for Ecuador to have such a high crime/murder rate, and yet it does. Its murder rate is actually more than four times higher than the US rate, and the US already has the highest rate in the entire developed world. That's shameful.

Why even bring the US into this madness Every time a comparison has to be made somewhere the US has to be involved. This murder did not happen in the US so please keep the spot light on Ecuador where this murder happened. Japanese need to contact embassy they plan to travel its common sense I never go anywhere without knowing something about the area even in safe countries.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

The cowardice is amazing. Were they scared the Japanese couple was going to pull out nunchaku and katana so they had to shoot them? The perps might be identifiable for having testicles the size of corn kernels.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Since wealth in some regions of the world is directly tied to poverty in other regions, tourists from the former areas should assume that travel to the latter areas poses a risk beyond that associated with travel to any unknown area where one is a stranger. People will turn to all means to get food and other material wants. In a sense, this type of crime, though terrible, is just a local example of what is carried out in the name of globalization on a daily basis.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'll go with wildwest - send in the vengeance squad. Eye for an eye, especially when it involves a young newly-married couple. I'd do it myself, if I wasn't too old. Damn!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@globalwatcher

i fail to see how "common sense" could have prevented this tragic incident. they hailed a taxi in a popular tourist city. from the report, it doesn't look like they were careless, or clueless, tourists walking around a bad part of town with wads of cash hanging out of their pockets.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It's the responsibility of the Japanese travel industry and the Japanese Foreign Ministry to alert people to the fact that other countries aren't necessarily as safe as Japan. As with all the things discussed on these pages, how do we make this happen starting from the website of a foreign language newspaper? Do we readers of Japan Today have any influence at all?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

rickyveeJan. 06, 2014 - 10:12AM JST

@globalwatcher

i fail to see how "common sense" could have prevented this tragic incident. they hailed a taxi in a popular tourist city. from the report, it doesn't look like they were careless, or clueless, tourists walking around a bad part of town with wads of cash hanging out of their pockets.

That city is filled with luxury hotels. Many of them have beautiful restaurants for tourists. I stayed at Hilton a couple of years ago and the dinner was very delicious and reasonable.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Why even bring the US into this madness

As a useful point of reference. For rough comparison purposes, US murder rate = 3X Canada or 5X England. So if some other country like Ecuador is 4X the US, that would translate to 12X Canada and 20X England.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

@couversaka - Is your reference point calibrated by population?

US pop. = 317.4 million, Can pop. = 35.2 million, UK pop. = 63.7 million, and Ecu pop. = 15.6 million

I would expect the US with a much higher population to have a larger amount of crime. Are we talking X murders per 1 million people? how is this calibrated?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

All rates are per capita. Ecuador's per capita rate per 100,000 has been at or above 20 in recent years, while the US rate was 4.7 last year.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

According to NHK news, the Ecuadorean government has doubled the reward so it now stands at $200,000.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@couversaka, You should get your facts straight. Although America is the most publicised of murders it has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. The African countries have the highest followed by South American countries. America has one of the lowest homocide rates in the world.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am planning to go EXACTLY there ( Guayaquil ) in less than three weeks. Is this place so bad that even GOING there at all is RISKING your life ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@globalwatcher

Japanese tourists need a safety awareness and education; Japanese common sense is only good within Japan, prior to foreign trip.

I really don't see how your comment applies to this story. No common sense could have saved them from this scam. The story clearly says that taxi drivers are involved with the gangs. Could have been any tourist regardless a high or low profile.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Kent McgrawJan. 06, 2014 - 01:31PM JST

@couversaka, You should get your facts straight. Although America is the most publicised of murders it has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. The African countries have the highest followed by South American countries. America has one of the lowest homocide rates in the world.

Kent, I think your fact is correct, but I do not want Japanese to drop guards down. Every city has a bad neighborhood or a district with high crimes, and some Japanese tourists are roaming into the high crime area because they are not informed properly. The gang can spot them very easily as Japanese are carrying a map and a camera. Most of them wear a pair of eye glasses. They watch victims behaviors/habits like a hawk.

iceshoecreamJan. 06, 2014 - 02:08PM JST

@globalwatcher

Japanese tourists need a safety awareness and education; Japanese common sense is only good within Japan, prior to foreign trip.

I really don't see how your comment applies to this story. No common sense could have saved them from this scam. The story clearly says that taxi drivers are involved with the gangs. Could have been any tourist regardless a high or low profile.

That's true. In this case, they could have gone to other restaurants around the hotels where they were staying. I stayed at Hilton and there are many good restaurants/bars and local street vendors around it. You know Japanese tourists have a reputation as a "Walking Cash Cow", right? Just be cautious.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I really don't see how your comment applies to this story. No common sense could have saved them from this scam.

iceshoecream, awareness and education always help and so does common sense. There is not only avoiding a scam, but also getting out of one alive. I don't know all that went down, but I have to wonder if the couple could have done something to avoid getting shot, or done something that furthered their getting shot. Who teaches Japanese what to do when getting robbed in Ecuador or anywhere? Nobody taught the woman who asked for 2000 yen back, that is for sure!

I am not the type of person to give up all hope. Just because you got into a taxi who is taking you to meet gang thugs does not mean you cannot properly negotiate your safe release.

What is more, education, awareness and common sense might have had them going someplace else besides Ecuador in the first place.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

****I completely agree with Globalwatcher on the point he made about Japanese people needing to be more aware when they travel.

rickyvee

The fact that it is a popular tourist city makes it even more important to an eye out for thugs and con-artists - that's where they all operate.

My Filippino friend always advises his students not to hail taxi's on the streets of Manila, so kind of taxi scam is something that goes on all over the world.

A quick search on the net and you can find all the dos and don'ts about traveling in Equador -

After reading this (below) , there's no way I would take my wife there -

ATMs: I use ATMs (usually in the mornings) that are attached to actual banks and preferably inside a guarded alcove. Once I make a withdrawal, which during long-term travel, is never less than US$100, I make a beeline back to my hotel and lock it away. Carrying large sums of cash on you, makes you a target. So take it out and stash it away.

Nightlife: Take official taxis. In Ecuador, call for one. In Peru, look for the official blue sticker on the side of the cab. Lock the doors and don’t accept additional passengers off the street. Travel in groups and never walk home alone, even if it is just a few blocks. Cabs are US$2, so do it. Don’t leave your drink unattended or accept them from strangers.

Bus Rides: Check low-value luggage below and ask the porter to keep an eye on your pack. Bring valuables on board with you. If the driver asks to take your bag, just say “arriba” and point to the seats. He’ll understand. Inside the bus, never put your bag on the top rack or even at your feet. The optimal place is in your lap. If someone leans over you to open the window, just keep your hand on top of your bag. If someone asks for the time, don’t be ashamed to decline assistance. On overnight buses, Neil and I use carabiners to link our bags together and to the seat. Brightly-colored ones signal would-be thieves that we mean business.

Walking Tours: Always ask the hotel desk and tourist office about walking around town. What streets should you avoid? Until what time is it safe to walk around? Are there certain trams/buses to avoid? In terms of hikes, I felt very safe walking around Otavalo and the tourist office encouraged our explorations. However in Vilcabamba, we were advised to stay clear of one specific trail. We did and all ended well, for us.

Overall, remember that the average person in Ecuador makes about US$400 a month. So when you bust out that iPod Touch or a crumpled wad of green backs, people will notice–sometimes the wrong type of people. Stay humble and don’t give anyone a reason to hurt you. Don’t walk home drunk and don’t leave your bag on the counter because you’re “just going to look over here for a second”. During our 3 months in Ecuador, I felt the most safe in Banos and Montanita while Quito and Guayaquil felt the most intimidating to me. Even locals there advised us to take care with our belongings. If something arises, don’t hold back your goods and cash. Give them over and walk away with your life. As I tell friends along the trail: “It just aint worth it, kid.”

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Also, don't look in the eyes the thieves!!!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was shown on TV on Saturday night saying that the crime reflected badly on the country and would negatively impact the tourism industry. He warned the killers that they will be brought to justice, NHK reported.

A quick reading of even Tripadvisor would tell you this is BS. This town is totally out of police control. As BlingBlingNicky said - and even though I used to be a quite intense backpacker in Latin America - I would not go to Guayaquil.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g303845-s206/Guayaquil:Ecuador:Health.And.Safety.html

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I went to Guayaquil while in the service in the early 80s. The police militia rode around the place carrying uzis, and, from what I heard, had a license to kill although it didn't feel that dangerous to me. I didn't encounter any trouble but I always had my eyes peeled. I suspect most of the trouble there stems from the drug trade. I have to sayI loved the place and the people. Very friendly and helpful. We should be appalled by this but also not let one incident lead us to condemn the whole country. Murders of foreigners or tourists happen in every corner of the world, including right here in Japan. My condolences to the family of the dead man. Hopefully his wife recovers fully. Let's hope the culprits are quickly rounded up and justice swiftly meted out.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I really don't see how your comment applies to this story. No common sense could have saved them from this scam. The story clearly says that taxi drivers are involved with the gangs. Could have been any tourist regardless a high or low profile.

Actually it's common sense for tourist in Guayaquil and Quito not to hail taxis off the street since it is very dangerous even for locals. Most hotels and restaurants have or can hire safe transportation for their patrons. This is actually common knowledge and even at the airport there are warning signs, although there should be some sort of flyer in different languages for those who unfortunately don't research their travel destination.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Check your embassy before traveling and if you are not sure ask the hotel to get a taxi for you at least they will have a mental note of who picked you up!! Thats what I do when I go to Mexico, oh my goodness and the police will charge you just for not crossing at the intersection if you are a foreigner and when questioned about the locals doing the same he said I don't understand what you are talking about instead trying to push get a bribe!!!! When a well dressed american stepped in who noticed what was going on and understood spanish, I refused he said ok go angrily!.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am Lenin Arteaga and I'm from Guayaquil - ECU so it's too bad that it happened with our japanese tourists, So I am embarrassed but You have to Know the other face of our city and our Country. We have beautiful touristic places. Beaches, Galapagos Island, volcans, highlands, and the most important ecological reserve in the world Yasuni ITT. Regards, From Ecuador

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Basically, always follow embassy advice. While it's very sad what happened - and I have no desire to comment on the safety of Ecuador as I know little about the country - if these two had followed travel advice stating not to hail taxis off the street, this may not have happened. Unfortunately, with the world a smaller place than ever due to easier/quicker transportation, more people seem to think that what is applicable in their own country is the same in others. I personally, when traveling through the middle-east and north Africa, was horrified by the amount of contextually stupid things I saw some other "travelers" doing. People need to do more research before they travel, and not treat the rest of the world like their own backyard or expect they can behave in the same manner.

While I have my own strong views about other cultures and people, including Japan and the Japanese, I would never expect someone in their own country to treat me differently just because I'm a dumb foreign tourist. In this case, these gangsters saw an easy mark and took it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unfortunately there are still many uncivilized societies, and all but the seasoned traveller should avoid them.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Rest in Peace and swift recovery respectively.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

The problem is the corruption. Police in many South American countries is corrupt. So they do nothing (or not enough) against this gangs. And as a tourist, how do you recognize a fake taxi, a fake mini bus or even a fake police officer? Please see this links: http://www.katharinaandpeter.info/index_en.htm http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1069.html#crime http://forums.officer.com/t147904/ But even locals get into trouble, as I heard from a girl who used a taxi, an other person entered the taxi later and she got raped and throw out of the taxi out side the town. I hope you all have happy and safe travels.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm from Chile, and I`ve been many times to Ecuador, last year I went with my husband, and we are going back in June. Ecuador has changed a lot and Guayaquil is a safer city than it was before, but as ANY big city in latin america you have to be careful. I know that I speak the language, but there are things that you can do to get to know the city and feel safe, for example you can hire a tour guide to explore the city, there are also taxi companies that you can call in any restaurant, mall or hotels which are safe, you can get informed on which are the highlights of the city and go there specifically. Of course if you as traveller you will like to feel the city by walking on it, in Guayaquil you have the two" Malecon" and Las Peñas to walk and you will see security guards looking after you, trust me even in my latin looks while we were exploring "Las Peñas" a guard was checking us. Many locals will tell you to avoid the downtown area or even not to move around and just flight directly to Galapagos, but Ecuador has a lot to offer not only the Galapagos, and Guayaquil too. It is very sad to what happened to the japanese couple, but unfortunately these things can happen to anyone, and these situations cannot hold you back to explore Latin America and Ecuador if you wish to do so. Be safe

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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