Oita town uneasy over 3 unsolved crimes


“Everybody here knows everybody else.”

Hiji, in Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, is – or was – that kind of place, a placid, friendly little seaside town, population 28,000, 25 km from Oita City, the prefectural capital. Calm was shattered in June when an elderly couple was stabbed to death in their home.

Police were still puzzling over that – there were no signs of forced entry, no apparent robbery, no imaginable motive – when, in September, a 36-year-old housewife suddenly went missing.

The next day there occurred the third of three mysterious “incidents” that the weekly magazine Friday (Oct 21) says have the town reeling – a two-year-old child vanished from her mother’s car in a supermarket parking lot.

Takafumi Kasagi, 86, and his wife Kumako, 84, were farmers. Their bodies were discovered on the evening of June 27 when relatives dropped by, surprised at not having seen them in a while. An autopsy showed they had been stabbed to death about three days earlier. By whom? With what? Why?

The stab wounds themselves are the only indications of force. The murderer must have been invited inside as a relative, friend or acquaintance. The only other apparent possibility is suicide, which Friday does not even raise. Presumably there are reasons for considering it incredible.

The housewife who disappeared is Machiko Mitsunaga. It was the morning of Sept 12. Friday reconstructs the preceding hours. At 9:45 a.m., Mitsunaga received a call from her daughter’s elementary school – the child had a problem with a tooth, could Mitsunaga come and get her? She drove to the school, took the girl to a dentist, stopped briefly at a supermarket, drove her daughter back to school, apparently returned home because that’s where the car was – and that’s all anybody seems to know; she hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

Early in the afternoon of the next day, Sept 13, Yuko Emoto, 34, drove with her two-year-old daughter Kotone to the local supermarket. Kotone was asleep and Emoto left her in the car. She was in the store for five minutes. When she returned, the child was gone. Prefectural police authorities put 5,500 officers on the case – so far to no avail. Not a single eyewitness has come forward.

Three mysteries and not a single clue! Does any common feature link them? Friday does come up with two intriguing coincidences, but far from dispelling the murk, they only seem to deepen it. The murdered couple’s farmhouse is only a few dozen meters away from the Emotos’ house. The supermarket from which Kotone disappeared is the same one Mitsunaga dropped into before her own disappearance. Haunting rather than enlightening – or so it seems.

One thing is sure, Friday says: Unless police make some progress, “the anxiety of local residents will only grow.”

© Japan Today

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Most puzzling, but in a town of 28,000 everyone probably goes to the same stores for shopping so no mystery there. And everyone probably lives a few dozen meters from everyone else. In any case, I hope they find the missing two-year-old and mother alive and well.

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Oh please people, this is classic poor Japanese police work.

In a small town a stranger would have been noted, so that means that the murder is a local. The highly varied nature of the victims indicates impulse kills in crimes of opportunity rather than a premeditated pattern, a common pattern amongst early serial killers as they try to figure out their preferred victim type. This is probably a single killer, with a routine or vantage point near the scenes of the crimes. Why a single killer? The timing and opportunistic nature of the missing people indicates that these were crimes of opportunity and uncoordinated. The rapid escalation, plus the murder weapon and pattern, indicate that is it probably a male, someone in good health and capable of disposing of the remains of a middle-aged woman.

I'd need further information about the murders to reach any further conclusions, but frankly there's a LOT of evidence here. For example the patterning of the strokes could tell one a lot about the killer's mental state. A couple of well-aimed strokes at major arteries would indicate someone with control and who did research, while many slashes would indicate a wilder less controlled approach. The depth of penetration would indicate strength, as well as any scoring on bone. The angle of the stroke can indicate handedness (is the killer a lefty?). The cleanness of the cut and shape of the wound can give a good indication of the type of blade used (serrated? non-serrated? kitchen knife, cleaver or art knife?). Were there signs of a struggle or forced entry, or did they killer know the victims well enough to get close? Has anyone left the village recently?

There's a ton of evidence here is the cops just exercised their gray matter a little and actually THOUGHT and did a little forensic work as opposed to throwing their hands up and going, "I dunno!". Give me 5000 police officers, all the evidence, access to the crime scenes and the broad powers that police have in Japan and I'd have the murderer in a month... and I wouldn't need a confession, I'd have enough real evidence to support a real conviction.

Frankly the Japanese police's reliance on confessions as opposed to actual detective work has made them lazy and stupid.

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Police crime detection rates are only about 28%, up 4% on a few years ago.

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The only thing at present that seems to connect these three crimes is that they are unsolved..It is unlikely that the mother of of the elementary school child is unlikely to have left of her own free will and the two year olds disappearance is a total enigma. Suicide is not the suspected cause of death of the senior citizens and Police seem to be considering that their demise was by the hands of someone they knew. For the missing mother and the two year old child, hope prevails that they will be found safe and well. I wish the Police well and that their investigations will prove to be successfull and conclusive

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Put Public Prosecutor KimuTaku on the case. It'll be solved within one episode.

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me thinks you watch a lot of CSI :)

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