Tokyoites who arose on the morning of Jan 1, 2001 with hopeful expectations for the new year and new millennium were greeted instead with shocking news headlines: "Police suspect burglary after family found slain at home."
In police parlance, the official name is "Kamisoshigaya 3-chome family of four murder case." The murders of four family members Mikio Miyazawa (age 44), his wife Yasuko (41), daughter Niina (age 8) and son Rei (6) occurred on the night of Dec 30, 2000.
Now 20 years on, the case remains no closer to a solution.
As no blood was found on Rei's body, it is theorized that the killer murdered him first by strangulation. The father, wife and daughter died of exsanguination from multiple knife wounds. Afterwards the killer inexplicably lingered in the house possibly for as long as 10 hours and then departed, leaving behind his blood, fingerprints, an unflushed stool in the toilet and various personal possessions that investigators typically call takara no yama (a mountain of treasures, i.e., evidence).
None of these, however, have led to the arrest of any suspect. It's as if he had walked out the door, boarded a UFO, and vanished into thin air.
Asahi Geino (Dec 31-Jan 7) talked with retired police official Takeshi Tsuchida, who as chief of the Seijo Police station headed the initial investigation.
"After killing his victims the criminal lingered in the house," says Tsuchida. "He ate two cups of ice cream straight from the cups without a spoon. He scattered documents into the bathtub. He may have been looking for something, or perhaps he was just spending time before leaving."
The greatest mystery perhaps remains the killer's motive.
"Several hundred thousand yen are believed to have disappeared, but the question remains, were the killings done for financial gain, out of some deep-seated personal hatred or the act of a deviant personality?" Tsuchida wonders.
"Nothing seems to make sense. The killer brought gloves, but from the beginning committed the killings barehanded. Normally if premeditated, a killer would have worn gloves. It also seems strange that instead of a survival knife he choose a slender knife, used for slicing sashimi, called a Yanagiba hocho. Its blade is unsuitable for stabbing humans. And there's something inconsistent with criminal premeditation in the way he broke into a house with the lights out and killed the entire household."
The killer's unusual DNA indicates a father of East Asian background and a mother with roots in southern Europe or the Adriatic. With only 2% of genetic material, scientists can develop a profile -- similar to a sketch by a police artist -- of the individual's likely physical appearance. The data can also be cross-referenced to ancestry sites on the web that might lead to other family members and trace the killer's identity. Widely used by law enforcement in the U.S., such science has led to the arrest of several serial killers.
But Japan lags behind other countries in these techniques, and in addition, the law prevents exploratory profiles of crime suspects from being made public. For authorities to make public the names and photographs of murder victims but protect suspected perpetrators strikes Tsuchida as highly inequitable.
"If we could generate a montage photo (composite image) based on the DNA, perhaps someone in the neighborhood might recall having seen him, and provide some useful clue," he says.
"This incident is a barometer of public safety in Japan," Tsuchida remarks. "People find it terrifying that something like this could happen in such a secure neighborhood, in the safety of a family home.
"When people ask me, 'What became of that incident in Setagaya?' I'm at a loss for words. If we can't generate a facial image based on the DNA, it might as well be as if we had no DNA at all. If we can track down this killer, I believe it will help to deter similar crimes in the future."© Japan Today