Ichihashi, suspect in Hawker murder case, officially charged with “abandonment of corpse” on NPA wanted posters


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Hi Blog.  Something interesting I found last week:  An NPA wanted poster for murderers, put up in banks, post offices, and police boxes nationwide, offering tidy rewards for information leading to their arrest.


Snap taken March 3, 2009, by the ATMs of Hokuyou Ginkou Ebetsu Branch.  Sorry it’s a bit hard to see, but all of them are wanted for murder (satsujin).

Actually, sorry, I fib.  One isn’t.  The fourth one from the left.  Closeup.


Recognize the name and that face?  That’s Ichihashi Tatsuya, the suspected murderer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, former NOVA English teacher, found beaten, suffocated, and buried in a tub of sand on his apartment balcony back in 2007.  Police bungled their investigation, and he escaped on foot down a fire escape without even his shoes.  He’s still at large.  Hence the wanted poster.  Sources:


Funnily enough, unlike everyone else on that poster, Ichihashi is not wanted on a charge of “murder”.  It’s rendered as “abandonment of a corpse” (shitai iki).  Even more funnily enough, that’s the same charge levelled at Nozaki Hiroshi (the dismemberer of a Filipina in 2000, who got out after only 3 years to stow more Filipina body parts in a locker in 2008), and at Obara Jouji, convicted serial rapist and dismemberer of Lucie Blackman.  Seems like these crimes, if they involve NJ, are crimes to their dead bodies, not crimes of making them dead.


My next Japan Times article is on this, in part (due out Tuesday, March 24).  So as part of my research, today I called the Chiba Police number provided on the poster above to ask why Ichihashi wasn’t accused of murder. The investigator, a Mr Shibusa, said he couldn’t comment in specific on the case. When I asked how one distinguishes between charges of murder vs. abandonment, he said that it depended on the details of each case, but generally if the suspect admits homicidal intent (satsu-i), it’s murder. However, how the other suspects on the poster were so cooperative as to let the police know their will to kill before escaping remains unclear.  I’m still waiting for an answer to my request for further clarification on why Ichihashi’s charge was rendered differently.

I’ll be making the case in the JT article that Japanese jurisprudence and criminal procedure, both in the prosecution of criminals and as criminals, differs by nationality, with the NJ getting a raw deal.  The wanted poster above is but one piece of evidence.  Stay tuned.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

27 comments on “Ichihashi, suspect in Hawker murder case, officially charged with “abandonment of corpse” on NPA wanted posters

  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    As someone who’s a layman when it comes to police procedure, I can’t say for sure what the purpose of the crime of “abandonment of a corpse”. From what I’ve gathered over the years (and please correct me if I’m mistaken) is that this “charge” was invented as a legal means to hold murder suspects in custody for the standard 23 days, and should it prove necessary, “rearrest” the suspect for murder should more “investigation” (ie. interrogation) be needed to garner a confession. That the wanted posters all show murder suspects, save for Ichihashi, one has to wonder why though. Could all the others have had witnesses that could testify to the crime? I dunno.

    One thing I’d like to know about the “shitai iki” charge is under what conditions is it applied? Is someone convicted of murder also charged with abandoning their victim’s corpse? If a murderer were to stand beside the body until the police arrive, is the charge not applicable? It sure would be nice to get the lowdown on shitai iki, since it shows up in the Japanese media so often.

    — It sure would. But the Chiba cop wasn’t clarifying, nor was he giving me another agency to phone so I could find out more. It was a dead end. Frustrating. It’s their job to know, and he wasn’t telling.

  • I saw that same poster and I was wondering the same thing. I would love to know the reason he gets different treatment.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Debito, is it possible that police are first charging people with this lesser crime so that they can later re-arrest them (a fresh 23-day interrogation!) if they can’t get a confession right away? Or so that they stil have something to put them in jail for even if they can’t prove that the defendant is guilty of murder? It seems to me that this charge [i]could[/i] be scarier than being charged with murder directly — it’s easier to get a conviction.

    — It’s also easier for him to get out sooner and do it again, as happened in the Nozaki Case.

    Yes, it’s entirely possible. I just want to know why the others are being charged with greater crimes. And I strongly doubt it’s hard to make a conviction stick for murder anyway given evidence they were together, her body in his apartment, and a 99.9% conviction rate.

  • Apparently the Japanese Police Motto is “To Protect and Serve (Japanese Only)”

    — That’s a bit harsh. These are national wanted posters, after all. I’m pleased the public alert is out for him.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Looks like Mark Mino-Thompson said it better than I did ^_^;

    Isn’t Jouji Obara Korean? Were there any details of his case that made it look like justice was being administered more harshly than it would have been had he been Japanese?

    It seems to me that the murder of Scott Tucker is a much more egregious miscarriage of justice — so far — than how the main suspect in Lindsay Hawker’s murder is being treated. The guy’s face is on signs all over the place and I can’t imagine him getting probation (as Atsushi Watanabe did) should he be caught. Hopefully Ichihashi will be apprehended at some point.

    — From what I’ve heard, Obara was a naturalized former Korean. But that’s 2-Channel-style rumor, and I’m not going to add that as evidence of anything until I have a more credible source and have more substance that it had an effect. Anyway, alleged Korean or not, Obara still got off lightly vis-a-vis police investigation, according to the Japan Times.

  • It could be there is more to the process than just the initial charge that Ichihashi is wanted for.

    In the West, the police generally have to rule out homicide whenever they are faced with a suicide scene.

    Maybe the only thing they can get Ichihashi on with solid evidence is abandonment of a corpse. What if there was an accomplice who did the actual murdering? Or if it was manslaughter or some accidental death?

    I agree it pays to look at the pattern, though.

    I also wonder if this isn’t some kind of payback or rough justice for situations like the Hattori killing in Louisiana. Boy killed on Halloween in cold blood as he got lost on the way to a party, and Louisiana let the perpetrator walk. This was about 1992. The victims in Japan are British, but . . .

    Many legal systems have a sort of callousness in that regard.

  • There’s no conspiracy here and I strongly advise against suggesting so in the Japan Times. It is just standard police procedure which you are likely only just noticing now because the charge has cropped up in those two high profile cases.

    — Why is it standard procedure for one set of felons and not another? I asked the cops, and they weren’t clarifying. I hope they do before the article comes out. They have my number.

  • Hi Debito,
    although I am not an expert on these matters I get the impression that most suspected murder suspects are first arrested on the ‘abandonment of body’ charge and then charged later with murder (as Mark notes above).
    If this is for an article it might be advisable to get input from someone who is active on the prosecution side, as well as perhaps from a lawyer who knows the ins and outs. The guy in Chiba might be able to help but perhaps it’d be a better idea to talk to someone who handles such issues frequently.
    One afterthought: the tone of your post is very biased. Only one suspect is charged with shitaiiki, the one where a foreigner was murdered, ergo must be a conspiracy against foreigners. Perhaps the cause would be better served if we all remained credible by getting our facts straight and not crying wolf at every corner.

    — Thanks for the cautioning. But I never used the word “conspiracy”.

  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    Well, I’ve tracked down the relevant law. It doesn’t go into details about how it’s applied, but it at least sheds some light on the crime.

    Article 190(Destruction of Corpses)
    死体,遺骨,遺髪又は棺に収めてある物を損壊し,遺棄し,又は領得した者は,三年以下の懲役に処する。A person who damages, abandons or unlawfully possesses a corpse, the ashes or hair of a dead person, or an object placed in a coffin shall be punished by
    imprisonment with work for not more than 3 years.


    Some more relevant links are here:

    Seems the law isn’t in Japan only, but the US as well. Of course, I suspect it’s used a whole lot more sparingly and not in the same manner as in Japan.


    — Thanks Mark M-T. Yes, it looks as though it’s as Mark in Yayoi says, they’re going after the smaller charge just in case they can’t make the larger charge. But I’d like the NPA to tell me that themselves, since I asked. And given the evidence in the Hawker Case, I’ll stand by my original assertion that a murder charge would probably stick.

  • I recollect this case about the tainted with drugs luggage at Narita. Now what if it wasn’t lost, but some other officer had discovered it?Or by some ordinary cop during checks on the street?It looks like a duck, moves like a duck, then it is a duck.Really?
    Maybe the Japanese police hasn’t got solid evidence(his fingerprints on her neck,for example) which is entrely their mistake, that he is 1000%responcible for her death,so they are waiting for his confession.Murder in Japan is punished by death, and murder charges should be examined very,very seriously.For the other guys maybe they had solid evidence to charge them with murder.
    The police(including the forensics) messed up this case very badly. But I personally wouldn’t blame the prosecution for their decision.If you ask the people from Amnesty International, with whom you work sometimes, I believe they will give you the same answer.BTW, I’d recommend you the book “The Innocent man” , a nonfiction by John Grisham. It discusses exactly such cases.

  • I really hope this guy is caught. It would be a huge relief to the bereaved families involved with this case. I still find it unusual that the NPA have not accused him of murder considering he was witnessed leaving the scene of the crime. I would be interested in learning more about the procedure the police go through to mark someone a “murder” or “abandonment of a corpse”. It’s uncomfortable to think that the NPA might mark suspects differently on the ethnicity of the victim.

  • On the face of it, it does seem fairly biased. And the fact that we can all jump so easily to that conclusion alone is something that should be dealt with (eg. the idea that it’s shitai iki is because the victim was NJ doesn’t just seem possible or plausible to us, but the most plausible and most natural explanation).
    However, taking on board what people like Norik are saying, it might be an idea for someone to check out the other names on the poster and try to find out if there’s a special reason why they’re up for murder.
    This is a nationwide poster and it’s unlikely that these are the only murderers the police are hunting for at the moment, so each must have a particular reason to be included (Ichihashi’s being the foreign media attention making Japan look bad/worse and maybe some pressure from the British embassy).
    Does anyone reading have enough time to do some digging?

  • Copwatcher says:

    If you kill someone in the street and run away you can’t be charged with 死体遺棄. I don’t know all the cases behind those other mugshots but I know three of them and there were no circumstances in which that charge would apply. It applies when someone has dumped a body and most murder cases don’t involve murderers disposing of bodies. When they do, 死体遺棄 charges are common. Kaori Mihashi, for example, was arrested for 死体遺棄 even though she had already admitted to killing her husband. As others have said, it gives you a cast-iron reason to hold someone which you don’t have the chance to do in many murder investigations so police routinely do it when they can. You can discover for yourself reading the newspapers. It’s absurd to think it indicates how a case will be prosecuted.

    You assume that the NPA ought to answer your questions. You phoned a number which you are supposed to use if you have any information relating to Ichihashi’s whereabouts. I’m not surprised the guy on the end of the phone didn’t feel like walking you through basic police procedures. You could find this information on the web if you looked – it’s even described on wikipedia, for goodness sake – so I don’t know why you are approaching the police with such questions. It’s not their job to clarify something for you before you write an article. It’s your job to make sure you write an accurate article.

    — Why approach the police? Because they are the police, they are entrusted with this case, and their actions are publicly accountable. When a person calls a public institution and identifies himself by name and as a newspaper columnist, who makes it clear he needs information they have in order to write accurately for an upcoming article, they do have an obligation to answer. Or at least give me another agency to call to find out more. Sorry, don’t agree with you. This is part of media and public accountability.

    Thanks for clarifying other things above. Please tell us more about the three cases you know about in the mugshots and why 死体遺棄 does not apply to them?

  • Copwatcher says:

    Public accountability is not the issue. The NYPD has a PR department but you’ll soon find that while it is their job to field press inquiries, they will happily ignore ones they regard as a waste of their time. You don’t need the police to tell you anything in this case because the information is on the web as well as known to any criminal lawyer in Japan and most crime reporters.

    However, I don’t even think the Japan Times is a police kisha club member. Even if it is somehow, you are definitely not the named JT representative so why do you imagine you are entitled to an answer as a member of the press? Leaving aside the evils of the kisha club system, you should already have been prepared to seek your answers elsewhere and certainly shouldn’t go about levelling unfounded accusations simply because no-one responded to your questions. That would be irresponsible journalism.

    On that note, it’s time you did your own digging. Take the names of those other wanted guys and look them up!

    — Sheesh. Sorry to have bothered you. I guess we can’t ask questions. Wrong kind of “digging”. I hope other media are more open than you.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    ” When a person calls a public institution and identifies himself by name and as a newspaper columnist, who makes it clear he needs information they have in order to write accurately for an upcoming article, they do have an obligation to answer. ”

    Actually, if it’s part of an ongoing investigation, they have no obligation what so ever to answer any questions that you may have about it if you are a member of the press. Doing so could possibly jeopardize what they’ve been trying to get on him.

    I mean, if they’re going to the lengths of putting up posters of him in drag and bald in order to find him, they are obviously trying to make a case against him and don’t want to get what they have thrown out too early.

    Personally, I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill in this case. If they are offering that much money for someone to turn him in or give a tip that leads to his capture (which is enough to count as a bloody lottery win!), then the current charge is honestly irrelavent. The charge they convict him with in the end is the one that matters.

  • I’m not in the media. I added my twopence here because it infuriated me you wrote your piece without doing any elementary fact-checking and then blamed the police for not giving you information you can find out for yourself. I think it was very misguided to make the suggestions you did in this piece and I don’t understand why you still want answers when you should be abandoning the idea of writing it up for the Japan Times. Since you seem to want to charge on regardless, I don’t think it is out of order to tell you to do your own legwork when all it mean is a quick Google search.

    — I’ve done that. Talk about charging on without elementary fact-checking.

    Look, if all you want to do is criticize me, you’ve done that aplenty. If you’ve got nothing new to add to this blog discussion, enough already. Goodnight.

  • “Even more funnily enough, that’s the same charge levelled at Nozaki Hiroshi (the dismemberer of a Filipina in 2000, who got out after only 3 years to stow more Filipina body parts in a locker in 2008), and at Obara Jouji, convicted serial rapist and dismemberer of Lucie Blackman. Seems like these crimes, if they involve NJ, are crimes to their dead bodies, not crimes of making them dead.”

    Nozaki Hiroshi was arrested on the charge of abandonment of a corpse on April 7, 2008. He was re-arrested on the charge of murder on April 28, 2008, based largely on his confession. That was something the police never had in 2000 – he never admitted to the murder (he claimed she was dead when he awoke in the morning), and the police had no concrete forensic evidence that Nozaki, and no-one else, murdered that Filipina. They could connect him to some body parts, nothing more, and the parts they had were not enough to prove the cause of death. He only admitted to murdering this first Filipina after he was arrested for murdering the second.

    Obara Jouji was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Australian Carita Ridgway. Last I checked, Australians were “NJ”. It is a shame he was not also convicted of at least manslaughter in the case of Lucie, but again, no confession and no concrete forensic evidence that Obara, and no-one else, killed Lucie. Due to the decomposition of her body, even the cause of death could not be determined. All they had was Obara’s admission that he was with her, and that he had given her drugs. Common sense and public opinion says he was responsible for her death as well, however the court of public opinion is not a court of law. That is something that I am sure, as someone who has lobbied very hard against convicting people without physical evidence, you can understand.

    — I’m beginning to realize just how important confessions are to actually substantiating charges in this justice system, and why police pull out all the stops to get them in their interrogations. If you’re one of those rare individuals who can take the heat for those 23 days and not say or sign anything, you’re more likely to get off lightly regardless of the evidence. Except if you’re Hayashi Masumi, I guess.

  • Copwatcher

    I’m interested in your comment”..then blamed the police for not giving you information you can find out for yourself..”

    So, for example, there is no need for all those people in the local council or tax buildings to assist?..since of course there are plenty of leaflets and/or information one can get from the web. Next time i go seeking advice, i should just stop and think, oh this is easy i can get this info and not get into the very long queue of other people seeking advice. I’ll tell them next time don’t bother them with petty questions, they have other jobs to do than answer our questions, especially since they are too busy counting their salary all paid for by us.

    Ignorance is not a defence, in any court. Yet you seem to suggest that everything about anything is easy access and as such, please don’t bother anyone asking them what it is or where to find it…since you imply it is all so easy to find and trival to ask such questions!

  • [introductory iyami deleted]

    “Except if you’re Hayashi Masumi, I guess.”
    That stupid woman had a mountain of evidence against her. Her defense team claims it is “circumstantial”, but then again that is their job. I would certainly want my lawyers hammering that point even if they were wrong, were I to be arrested for something…
    Let’s just start with the arsenic used in the curry being the same as that in her house (her husband ran an exterminating business at one point), the fact that she was the only person left alone with the curry that night (she basically chased off the neighbors who had been watching the pots and chatting), the fact that people saw her (from a distance) apparently put something into the pots and stir, the long history of mysterious poisonings happening around her, insurance fraud, etc…. They didn’t really need her confession, it would have just helped to make things “tidy”.

    Now, about those other faces on the poster. Let me try to help you out:

    From Left to right:

    Rin Shoui: Caught on camera robbing a pachinko parlor. When an employee confronted him he ran, but the employee gave chase so Rin pulled a knife and stabbed the employee to death. Got pics, got prints, probably got DNA… and they have a body and witnesses. A stupid criminal who panicked.

    Kogure Hiroshi: Was stalking the daughter of the Ishii family. When they tried to stop him, he broke into their house, strangled the 85-year-old grandma and stabbed the mother and father to death. He did not kill the daughter, but fled the scene in his own car and disappeared. I can’t find confirmation online right now, but if I recall correctly from one of those TV re-enactment shows, the daughter was in the house and saw him.

    Obara Katsuyuki: Killed a 17-year-old girl (allegedly a girlfriend) in his car, dumped the body and then tried to make it look like he committed suicide by driving his car off a cliff. Only thing was, he wasn’t in the car, nor was his body found near the car, nor were there any signs of damage inside the car such as there would be if someone had been bouncing around inside at the time of impact. But the girl’s DNA was there, and with that, a body, a known method of death…

    Ichihashi: Well they got a body, and a known manner of death, but no witnesses. Still, if they find him alive he’ll probably have a real hard time explaining why he isn’t the murderer. And for all we know, the cops may have all the evidence they need and just aren’t ready to tip their hand. If someone thinks that all they are looking at is “abandoning a body” as a charge, which is relatively light, they might be more open to the idea of turning themselves in if/when they get tired of running. And then they find out the cops have a really good case…

    Uechi Kei-Ei: Known gang member, apparently with a record (which means they already had his prints), stabs an izakaya owner. Leaves items of his at the crime scene, with blood stains on them. From these the cops can tell he was wearing them at the time of the stabbing (and was the stabber), and didn’t just happen to wander by, trip over a dead body, go “Oh my god, a dead guy! And his blood is on my shirt!”, strip his clothes off and run.

    Koike Toshikazu: Killed a man named Matsuda by hitting him over a head with a blunt instrument and strangling him, transported him to a field in his (Koike’s) truck and tried to burn the body. The body was recovered and cause of death ascertained. Koike’s truck was found with Matsuda’s blood and DNA on it. Koike was known to Matsuda and Matsuda’s son, had been seen quarreling with Matsuda and is known to have been in Matsuda’s aparentment at around the time Matsuda was killed, and disappeared afterwards. In other words, an obvious and very stupid criminal.

    Common thread here is that 5 out of 6 people left evidence, were seen at the scene or committing the crime, and in general screwed up badly by making it blazingly obvious that they are the murderer. Ichihashi was of course also incredibly stupid (who hides a body in a planter on their balcony?), of course. But like I said, there is a difference between “knowing” someone killed someone, and “proving” someone killed someone.

    [concluding iyami deleted]

    — Thank you very much for the summaries. Tiny point of order, not meant iyamily: Your method of knowing and proving put into force here, the more prudent way of wording here would be including “allegedly” etc. in the proper places, as they’re not yet convicted in a court of law. And especially after reading all this I’m not quite convinced that Ichihashi’s case is all that different to justify the milder charge. But that’s not our decision (and the decisionmakers aren’t talking).

    May I just ask your sources for this information?

  • Copwatcher says:

    John K, You’ve misunderstood my point. I didn’t argue that public officials are not obliged to assist the public with inquiries simply because the information may be available in written form elsewhere.

    I did specifically argue that Mr. Arudou was not entitled, as he thought, to receive answers to his particular line of questioning from the police, whether as a private citizen or as a representative of the Japan Times. It appeared to me that he took their lack of response as the main reason to float his thesis that there was some unfairness in the way suspects were charged in cases involving foreign victims.

    I’m arguing that it was Mr. Arudou’s own responsibility to ensure his claims were accurate before writing his piece and not the responsibility of the Chiba police to help him do so. I value the work that Mr. Arudou does in showing up the false claims made by the local media, and indeed the police, particularly in relation to foreign crime but this good work can be easily undone by a misleading piece like the one above.

    To his credit, Mr Arudou’s last comment to me indicated that he is dropping his thesis. He has also gone back and revised his original wording but I still believe a casual reader would come away thinking there is something fishy about using a charge of 死体遺棄 which is absolutely not the case.

  • I have to agree that I don’t buy the bias simply because of the charge that is currently leveled at Ichihashi. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t seem that the cops have any evidence that would allow then to charge him with murder. Yes, we know that there’s a 99.9% chance that he did it, but as it is the only thing they know for sure was that a) there was a dead body in his possession and b) he abandoned that body when he ran away. They can arrest him for that, then do the DNA tests (or pound a confession out of him) to nail him for the murder itself. Makes sense to me.

  • Always wondered if a different, tangential thesis might turn up some results.

    There has always been a focus by the press and police to be alarmist about the “gaijin crime wave”, even the though the police’s own data clearly shows there is no significant difference bewteen gaijin and Japanese.. and debito’s et al. efforts to point out this falsehood.

    But, on the flip side, I wonder what the “victim rate” (?) is.
    It almost seems that recently, plenty of gaijin are getting getting killed (be it stalker murder, or “self defense”, or “suicide”)
    Though admittedly, these stories have a long “shelf life” in our memories, and it may just SEEM the annual rate is high.
    What is the gaijin murder victim ratio compared to the Japanese population?
    What is the gaijin crime victim ratio compared to the Japanese population?

    As for pro-Japanese bias when the victim is gaijin, although I think this “abandonment of body” issue is, well, a non-issue (just the way the police operate here):
    The important issue is the final result.
    Do Japanese people who kill gaijin have a lower conviction rate? Get lighter sentences? More likely to be prosecuted on lesser charges (such as abandonment of a body instead of murder?) More likely to not be prosecuted? More likely to never be arrested by the cops in the first place? Are crimes with gaijin victims more likely to go unsolved (but would that be police laziness, or just the natural result of language barrier and victims or witnesses leaving Japan?)

    The numbers are so small that statistical analysis may be hard. But the anecdotal evidence is strong. [Obara Jouji, the Scott Tucker “self defense” murder, etc.]

    It would take a lot of research.

    — It would indeed. So let me break the ice, put out an essay, and let the debate begin.

    Hopefully the debate will focus on the data for a change, as opposed to focusing on me as the messenger.

  • “May I just ask your sources for this information?”
    Google is your friend. All of these (alleged) murderers are famous for what they (allegedly) did, and there is no shortage of sites out there offering copies of newspaper stories and summaries of their (alleged) crimes.

    Plus I love those Mino Monta etc. “wanted” specials, and am pretty good at remembering details.

    — I’m perfectly aware of how helpful Google is, and did my requisite searches there and elsewhere. I’m just not a big fan of citing websites that may or may not have trustworthy information (or render the issue like the person is already convicted). This is a media which asks the neighbors what they think about apprehended suspects, and reports their opinions as some kind of substantiation or even news. Online media in particular has a very difficult time distinguishing between fact from rumor. I prefer to get my information from the NPA directly, as they are the ones who decided the criminal charges. But the NPA sites offer precious little, to say the least.

    Meanwhile, it would help establish your credibility (and maturity) if you could just give your information without saturating it with sarcasm and derision all the time.

  • Copwatcher says:

    The sources you have for the cases involving foreigner victims – Obara, Nozaki, Ichihashi etc are media reports rather than police reports so I’m not clear why you are more hesitant to rely on media reports in the other cases. It’s no more difficult to distinguish between fact and rumour in those cases. Also, consider how would you go about finding information about criminal cases overseas. Press reports would be your main source there too, surely. I agree, treat them carefully but presumably that’s what you do whenever you use them. You can confirm charge details on police sites but you’ll more often find them on the prefectural police sites rather than the NPA site itself.

    I’m all in favour of finding a way to show that police are less responsive to crimes where foreigners are the victims. I think they are. However, you have to find your evidence first and not make mistaken claims which you later have to retract. I don’t know what Murphy has said to you in his comments but I’m not making my criticisms personal except to the extent that I hold you responsible for jumping to the wrong conclusion and undermining an otherwise useful line of enquiry.

    Level3 mentioned a case involving Scott Tucker. I took a look at the details and I can understand the family’s anger but I don’t see any evidence that the police went for a lesser charge because he was a foreigner. The problem in that case is one that crops up regularly in Japan when a foreigner is involved: witness testimony. Tucker was on his own so there was no-one to contradict witness testimony about his aggressive behaviour or his assailant’s claim of self defence. However, leaving aside the foreigner angle, if you search for cases with a similar charge, if not similar circumstances, you’ll find a large number of cases where the families of Japanese victims are also frustrated that a killer has got off lightly. We can all have our suspicions about how there is no level playing field for foreigners but to make that point, you have to have comparable data which supports your claim.

    One of the main reasons Japan has a very high conviction rate is because prosecutors rarely take the risk of bringing a case they might lose. The Obara case was actually one instance where prosecutors were under pressure to indict him for the death of Lucie Blackman on top of the other charges. The police had blundered so badly in their investigation that, normally, they would have decided the evidence was insufficient and dropped it. However they pursued it and the initial verdict confirmed their fears because the judge acquitted Obara on that charge. Happily, they won on appeal but it was touch and go and demonstrates the difficulty police have in building cases in the absence of a confession or incriminating witness testimony.

    — Thank you for all the information. If you had this much awareness and data, why didn’t you write things up for public consumption before I did? Keeping it all to yourself, even when asked for it, and criticizing others for not having it is counterproductive.

    I very much appreciate the advice you’ve given thus far (minus the anger), but personally, I would rather write up what I know and have found out, even with the risk of making a mistake or an overstatement, and start the ball rolling on the debate. If I hadn’t, you wouldn’t have piped up with what you know. And here’s hoping those more informed than I will make the corrections and connect the dots for us later. That’s what a debate is about.

  • copwatcher

    Still confused…you said “..I did specifically argue that Mr. Arudou was not entitled, as he thought, to receive answers to his particular line of questioning from the police..” and then “..I’m arguing that it was Mr. Arudou’s own responsibility to ensure his claims were accurate before writing his piece and not the responsibility of the Chiba police to help him do so…”

    So, to ensure the claims are accurate where can one obtain said information…what’s better than the source, the police. One could go elsewhere and get conjecture or supposition.

    If the police are unable to answer a simple question about a poster of theirs which enforces their rules, then one can only concluded there is something to hide. Information flows both ways.

    Since the police are supposed to be helpful, impartial and independent, in behaving this way (not answering simple phone calls to establish facts) they appear anything but!

  • Mr. Arudou phoned a Chiba police number, designed for members of the public to give information relating to the suspect Ishihashi, and asked for a public clarification of how the police had decided what charge detailed on the wanted poster. Try doing something similar in the US or Europe and they’ll very likely put the phone down on you. I’m all in favour of journalists showing initiative but it strikes me that if you were hoping for any statement at all then the press office should have been the first port of call.

    The Japan Times is not a police kisha club member. Even if it was, Mr Arudou is not an employee of the Japan Times and so could not act as the paper’s representative to the club. Consequently, the police are under no obligation to answer an enquiry from the Japan Times even it was presented through the appropriate channels. They do, however, recognize that cases raise interest overseas and the police have given separate briefings to the English language media specifically on the Ichihashi case. It is extremely sensitive so all their statements are weighed very carefully. For instance, they are in touch with the Hawker family and try to ensure that they learn nothing from the press that they haven’t already heard from the police directly. Take the case of a recent British journalist’s experience. When he wanted to ask some questions about the investigation, he first had to prove his identity and explain what he wished to write about. He was then asked to submit his questions written in Japanese. He received written replies to those questions the police agreed to answer and was allowed no follow-up. It’s always possible that if Mr Arudou followed this procedure he might have received a reply but he certainly isn’t “entitled” to one and he certainly cannot conclude, as you suggest, that “there is something to hide” because he doesn’t get one. Do I think it is satisfactory that the police operate this way? No, but that isn’t the issue at hand.

    But Mr Arudou’s methodology was flawed from the beginning and he should never have got to that point in the first place. He saw that Ichihashi’s charge was not the same as the others on the most wanted list, recalled two other instances of the charge where the victims where foreign and saw “a pattern” of the police treating the crimes differently. One of the first things you ought to do, then, is wonder what evidence would contradict this thesis. It seems to me that it would be undermined if it transpired that the charge of 死体遺棄 also cropped up frequently in cases where the victim is Japanese. And indeed it does, as a Google search quickly reveals. One high profile case being Kaori Mihashi who smashed her husband’s head in with a wine bottle, cut up his body and left it in plastic bags at various sites around central Tokyo.

    That’s all very well, you might think, but I’m bound to find at least some cases of the charge being used with Japanese victims because they are more numerous in the first place. I’m more interested in whether there are proportionately more instances where the victim is foreign. So why not take that most wanted poster as a proxy for the larger group? After all, only Ichihashi is wanted for a lesser charge and that fits the pattern. Fair enough, that raises the question of what the charge of 死体遺棄 actually is. And when you go online to check the statutes, you not only find details of the crime – which quickly show how few murders involve illegal disposal of the body – you also find details of how the police generally use the charge which has been described in earlier posts. From this point on, you don’t actually need to confirm that the proxy group is not representative enough to help you establish “a pattern” because you’ve already discovered your pattern doesn’t exist. If you want to dot the i’s and cross the t’s by looking up the other cases then you have plenty of time to do so because you no longer need to call that number in Chiba. You certainly don’t end up writing the piece Mr. Arudou presented and that’s why I maintain he has been irresponsible.

  • The fact that he he among the six most wanted ones plus the fact that there is a reward of 1 million yen clearly suggest that actually he is wanted for murder even though they don’t say so. Nobody would pay a million yen reward for someone who ‘just’ abandoned a dead body.

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