Japan Times: More NPA behavioral oddities re alleged murders of Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases


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Hi Blog.  Speaking of odd Japanese police behavior towards NJ in criminal cases:  We’ve talked about the Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases here on Debito.org before.  Fortunately, these cases have gathered traction thanks to caring family members, and tenacious reporters who don’t accept the NPA’s line that both of these deaths of NJ were mere accidents (while refusing to cooperate promptly and clearly on autopsy reports).  I have argued before that Japanese justice operates on a different (and subordinate) track for NJ victims of Japanese crime (i.e., Japanese perps get off the hook, foreign perps get thrown the book).  These articles in the Japan Times help to fortify that case (not to mention further illustrate how the USG’s missions abroad are woefully inadequate in providing service and protections to their own citizens).  Arudou Debito


Japan Times, Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2011
Kang family takes fight for justice to Tokyo (excerpt)
Father of young Korean-American who died in murky circumstances in Kabuki-cho feels let down by both the police and U.S. Embassy
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20110906zg.html, courtesy of the author

…Sung Won, the father of Hoon “Scott” Kang, the Korean-American tourist who died in mysterious circumstances in Shinjuku last year, arrived in Tokyo this week to continue his fight to seek justice for his son…

The Kang family is upset by the news that the official investigation into their son’s death has now been closed after the police concluded his death was accidental.

“I feel very angry and heartbroken,” says Scott’s father.

The Kangs and their supporters strongly reject the police finding of accidental death and want to see the case re-opened. They are also deeply unhappy with the way the Japanese police carried out the investigation and their failure to inform the family when they closed the case.

“Not only did they not tell my family, but we heard the news five months late. I was furious,” Kang says.

Nineteen-year-old Scott Kang was found lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood in the early hours of Aug. 26, 2010, in the sixth-floor stairwell of Collins Building 15, an eight-story high-rise of small hostess bars and clubs located near Shinjuku City Hall in Kabuki-cho. He remained in a coma for five days before dying of his injuries, his mother by his side, at the Kokuritsu Kokusai Iryo Kenkyu Center in Shinjuku.

The police investigation into his death was officially closed on Feb. 22, but the family was not informed of the fact until July — five months later…

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police say they notified the consular section of the American Embassy in Tokyo that the investigation had been closed on Feb. 22, and thought the information would be passed on to the Kang family.

But according to Mr. Kang, he received no communication from the U.S. authorities about the investigation’s closure until early July when an officer from the U.S. State Department telephoned.

Kang says that the failure of the embassy to pass on such critical information in a timely fashion shows the embassy is not taking the case seriously. “I feel the U.S. Embassy acted as if Scott was not a U.S. citizen.”…

The Kang family don’t just believe the police’s decision to close the investigation into Scott’s death was premature; they also think the police are withholding critical evidence from them that could prove Scott’s death was not accidental. One such piece of evidence is the autopsy report.

When Mr. Kang and Wozniak met with the Shinjuku police in October they requested a copy of the autopsy report into Scott’s death, but the police refused…

The refusal by police to give the next-of-kin of a deceased person a copy of the autopsy is common in Japan, but it is an approach that has attracted increasing criticism over the years. No one is more familiar with the difficulty of getting the police to release an autopsy than 50-year-old U.S. citizen and Japan resident Charles Lacey.

Lacey’s younger brother, Matthew Lacey, tragically died in Fukuoka in 2004 in suspicious circumstances. On Aug. 17 of that year, while Charles was staying in New York, he got a call from the Fukuoka Police informing him that they had found his brother’s body at the apartment where he lived and that he had died from dehydration and diarrhea…

Despite the unusual circumstances of his brother’s death, Lacey says the police initially had no plans to perform an autopsy, and it was only at his own behest that they reluctantly agreed to carry one out.

After Charles signed the necessary papers, an autopsy was performed on Aug. 19, two days after he was told of his brother’s death, at Kyushu University Hospital. Later the police told Charles that the autopsy showed a 20-cm fracture on his brother’s skull, and that based on this, their determination of cause of death had changed from death by sickness to an accident…

Lacey added that in his home country, it is standard procedure for a copy of the autopsy to be given to the next-of-kin of a deceased person when requested. In Japan, as Lacey discovered, things are not so simple, and it took him almost three years to get a copy of the report.

Full article at


Earlier article by the same author:

The Japan Times Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Family slams stalled probe into Kabuki-cho death
Questions linger nine months after teenage American tourist was found unconscious in a Shinjuku stairwell
By SIMON SCOTT, courtesy of the author

Nine months after their only son, Hoon “Scott” Kang, a Korean-American tourist, died from severe head injuries sustained in the stairwell of a building in Kabuki-cho, his family and friends are still no closer to understanding how he died.

Although the Shinjuku police have officially opened an investigation into Scott’s death, the family has been told only that the investigation is “not complete.”

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20110531zg.html


Earlier article on Matthew Lacey Case, by Eric Johnston:

The Japan Times, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007
U.S. man on quest to find cause of brother’s death (excerpt)
By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer, courtesy of the author

OSAKA — Charles Lacey’s brother died mysteriously 2 1/2 years ago in Fukuoka and he’s still trying to learn the cause.

He believes police bungled the investigation, wrongly concluded the death was due to an accident and are, like prosecutors, purposely withholding key information that could suggest foul play…

At the time, the family was told by police the preliminary cause of death was thought to be severe diarrhea and dehydration. Feces stains had been found on the toilet seat and the carpet, and Matt, who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, had recently received a prescription to treat diarrhea. Robbery did not appear to be a motive, as Japanese and U.S. currency worth nearly $1,000 was found in plain view.

But once the Lacey brothers arrived in Fukuoka, the cops changed their story. The autopsy had revealed a 20-cm crack in Matt’s skull, and “cerebral hemorrhage” was now listed as the cause of death.

The English translation of the postmortem, which was prepared by Fukuoka police and not by the doctor who performed the exam, attributed the death to an “unknown external cause” and “it is suspected the subject was hit on the head.”

To the family’s surprise, foul play was ruled out.

“We were told by police that Matt must have fallen down in the kitchen, striking his head, and that the fall resulted in the skull fracture, despite the fact there were no signs in the kitchen of a fall,” Lacey said. “Our family felt something was wrong and that the police weren’t doing their job. There were too many unanswered questions to believe this was just an accident, as the police wanted us to believe.”…

Rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20070206f2.html

23 comments on “Japan Times: More NPA behavioral oddities re alleged murders of Scott Kang and Matthew Lacey Cases

  • Mr. Arudou,

    I work for a Japanese private investigation agency. I’m still waiting in the USA for my visa but it should be soon. If the police are not willing to reopen the case, we are willing to reopen it. Cold cases are one of the things we do. If you know the Kang family, feel free to have them contact me. We won’t charge them an arm and a leg like some other agencies and are willing to work with their budget.

    — Thanks for the offer. I don’t know the Kang family myself. But I will pass on your contact details to the reporter and he can pass them on. I hope we can help.

  • What are we supposed to conclude about the Japanese police force? That they are a bastion of diligence and integrity?

    These young men were murdered. And for whatever reason, justice is not being served in their memory.

    What I can’t get my head around is that when it’s a young blonde british teacher, they were keen to get their suspect. But when it’s a young Asian American man in the red light district assaulted to death, it’s different? Who are the police covering for? Where does the corrupt trail of money lead in that seedy business? Or, perhaps worse, can these police officers just be too damn heartless/apathetic/lazy to care?

    It’s a nasty inference, I know, but what am I supposed to conclude?

  • @AJ, calm down about the perceived (in your mind) Japanese ranking of Caucasians above Asians. It is simply not true as a gaijin is a gaijin in the J-police thinking.

    By “Blonde British teacher” you are of course referring to Lindsay Anne Hawker and Lucy Blackman. In both cases it took MASSIVE pressure from the UK government and the bereaved families to get the cases taken more seriously, before justice was sort of done. Pretty much the same as we are seeing in Scotts case.

    If anything, the US Embassy is being faulted by the Kang family; at least Tony Blair seemed to do something more substantial.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Whoa! Hold up there a minute!
    ‘when it’s a young blonde british teacher, they were keen to get their suspect’.
    Are you talking about the Lynsey Hawker case, where 9 cops went to the killers apartment (where the body was still on the balcony), and failed to stop him running away, later to say that he was being sought for ‘probable abandonment of a corpse’ (as opposed to murder)?
    Or are you referring to the case of Lucy Blackman who was drug raped on video (police found over 200 tapes of the killer drug raping other girls when they searched his home), before being killed and chopped up with a chainsaw (which the killer bought after the murder, and plastic sheeting, all of which was testified to in court), and whose remains were found in a cave owned by the killer (that had already been allegedly searched once by the police), and then the killer was not found guilty of murder?
    Sorry. If the victim is NJ, the Jcops FAIL. Action is only taken when the relatives kick up a stink and threaten to tarnish the image of ‘team Japan’.
    Hey, while we are on the subject, lets not forget the Japanese guy who murdered and then raped (and ate parts of) a French student in Paris. He pleaded insanity, and was sent back to Japan on the basis that he was mentally unfit. The Japanese released him as soon as he got off the plane. He has since given extensive interviews, drawn a picture book of his crime, and even made a porn film. The Japanese police regard us as animals that are permanently free from the zoo.

  • AJ Says:
    What I can’t get my head around is that when it’s a young blonde british teacher, they were keen to get their suspect.

    Come on.. that is so childish and dysfunctional to say.
    If the person had the name …..gawa, the Japanese police would follow the same path that they’ve followed with these 2 cases and the deportee (obviously being deported is not an option for Japanese), if they were confronted with the same quality and amount of evidence of a crime.

    This is an issue of Japanese police work ethic, not Japanese societal attitude to the color of the victim. I find your comment really offensive.

  • @Scipio
    Actually, you may have a point about how poor the Jcop work ethic is in general. Did you read the report last year that only about 10% of Japan’s 30,000 plus ‘suicides’ every year received an autopsy? A Japanese doc came out and said that cause of death in about 90% of cases was just not really known. The Jcops can chalk it up to suicide and the family feels ashamed to delve into it, and then the cops can go back to the koban and stop bicycle riders and other important stuff. Since the Japanese education system doesn’t encourage any critical thinking or analysis, what hope is there that the Jcops can work with ‘clues’ and ‘evidence’ to understand serious crimes?
    Even if we trust the Jcops that 30,000 suicides are happening every year, it kind of shows that at least 30,000 ‘ware ware nihonjin’ are deeply dissatisfied with ‘team Japan’ every year.

    — Please cite sources when you give statistics. I’ve asked you to do this before. Next time I’m not going to approve the comment. Sorry.

  • Jim Di Griz says:


    The Japan Times Wednesday, March 17, 2010
    Autopsy report: too few deaths examined
    By NATSUKO FUKUE Staff writer

    If the police had had their way, the sudden death of a young sumo wrestler three years ago would have been simply a tragic event quickly swept under the rug, dismissed, as it initially was, as heart failure from unknown causes.

    But when the parents of Takashi Saito saw their son’s heavily battered corpse, they demanded police order an autopsy. It was apparent more sinister events led to the death: the young man’s heart had stopped, but it was because he was beaten to death.

    The teen’s stable master and other wrestlers were charged with the beating, sparking a major scandal that rocked the sumo world.

    Experts say this case of initial dismissal is just the tip of the iceberg. Autopsies are performed for the most part only when police suspect foul play, and around 90 percent of “unnatural deaths” are not subject to postmortem examination. Compounding the problem is a shortage of autopsy experts, and inadequate financial and material resources to support them.

    This is in sharp contrast to other developed countries. In the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, for example, autopsies are conducted in about 40 percent to 50 percent of cases of unnatural death, and where coroners, who act as independent forensic examiners, decide if such scrutiny is necessary.

    Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20100317f1.html

    Autopsy commissions swamp universities
    The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 17, 2010)

    Twenty-one universities carried out more than 100 forensic autopsies each in 2009 under the commission of police authorities, with the workload stretching many institutions to the breaking point, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

    Ten universities reported a single doctor having performed more than 100 autopsies last year. At Akita University in Akita, one doctor performed 284 autopsies.

    The survey results suggest the current autopsy system, which depends heavily on universities’ resources, is close to exhaustion.

    Police are under increasing pressure to ensure cause of death is accurately determined so that crimes do not go uninvestigated, but this does not necessarily correspond with universities’ primary mission of education and research. Forensic autopsies are ordered in cases of unnatural death, but not for deaths caused by disease or senility.

    Forensic autopsies are carried out by universities in all municipalities except Tokyo’s 23 wards, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe, where medical examiners are employed by the local governments. Fewer doctors are being trained in autopsy procedures, but the number of forensic autopsies ordered is increasing year by year.

    Seventy-nine universities with forensic medicine departments were contacted in the survey, with 60 universities giving valid responses.

    Fifty universities revealed the number of autopsies they conducted in 2009. At those institutions, a total of 5,593 forensic autopsies were performed last year.

    Of 21 universities that performed more than 100 autopsies, seven–including Kyo-rin University, Akita University, Tohoku University, Osaka University and Okayama University–conducted more than 200 autopsies.

    This year, 2,243 forensic autopsies had been performed by the end of April, meaning the total for the year is on track to outstrip that of 2009.

    Forty-four universities supplied answers about forensic autopsies conducted since 2004. The combined total for those 44 institutions rose from 4,343 in 2004 to 5,235 in 2009, the survey found.

    During that period, the number of doctors trained in autopsy procedures at the 44 universities decreased by one to 74, and the number of full-time staffers who assist with such tasks as toxicology tests and paperwork decreased from 203 to 192.

    Akita University employed three doctors trained in autopsy procedures in 2004, but only one in 2009. In the same period, the number of autopsies performed at the university more than doubled, from 126 to 284.

    — Thanks Jim. That makes the arguments more irrefutable.

  • Settle down guys!!

    Jim, you made my point, just more succinctly. When the victim is NJ, the J cops fail.

    I think my points are legitimate. And as a lawful resident of Japan, i damn well deserve the sane assistance and protection as citizens, so I ask, why don’t NJ MURDER (that’s what we are dealing with here) victims get the same treatment post mortem as Japanese? or do we?

    Is it sloth, xenophobia, or a mix of both in J cop culture? I think that’s a legitimate question in the facts of the Obara case, and these two cases. I stand by my comments in their context.

  • Regarding the Matthew Lacey death: the police said that the cause of death was “dehydration and diarrhea”, with a 20cm fracture on his skull?? How incompetent can you get!?

    I mean, even before you find the 20cm fracture on someone’s skull, just to say that they died of “dehydration and diarrhea” is completely irresponsible. Can you imagine any other 1st world country saying something like this? Rather than just saying he died of dehydration and diarrhea, they should have stated the cause of it. Like a certain illness as being the root cause. This is assuming there wasn’t that 20cm fracture on his head, of course.

  • maybe the philosophy for the Jcops is that “death is its own explanation?” If there is no CLEAR evidence of a crime, (that is to say an actual witness or murder weapon found at the scene) Then it must be some sort of “accident”. I am not arguing that the Jcops are doing a good job but perhaps there is more an emphasis on closing cases and not dragging out pesky “investigations” that may cause “trouble” or “difficult situations” for others.

    Can somebody contrast these dubious cases above with similar situations involving Japanese victims of crimes? I have a feeling that while yeah, there may be more of a prediliction for Jcops to not get AS involved in a case regarding a crime involving a foreigner, It might be something that is across the board no?

    It seems to me that almost all crimes involving murder without a suspect here generally just fade into the ether and are rarely ever reported on again as being SOLVED!

  • So you guys are suggesting it’s more sloth than sinister? It’s so sad that this is actually believable.

    It’s difficult to get my head around the concept, having grown up in the 80s and 90s hearing all about the wonders of Japanese innovation, that they can be so intellectually lazy cos it might be too hard to get to the bottom of the issue, if indeed this is the case.

  • @AJ
    I hear you man.
    Unfortunately, the ‘wonders of Japanese innovation’ are no more numerous than those of any other industrialized nation. For example, the Japanese didn’t discover electricity, radio, the secret of flight, how to split the atom (although they were working on it during the war), penicillin, pasteurization, the internal combustion engine, glass making, all of which have had a bigger impact than walkmans and VCRs, wouldn’t you say?
    Your childhood home was full of Japanese electronics, and your neighbor drove a Honda because Japanese products were cheaper than domestic ones. The sad truth is that the ‘wonder’ was a myth fabricated by the Japanese for domestic chest-thumping just as much as to impress foreigners and signal that Japan had ‘arrived’. china is doing the same thing now; look at the show that they put on for the Olympics, for example.

    You’re going to ask for a source for my Japan A-bomb claim;

    — Thanks! But now I’m gonna nit-pick about how we’re getting off track! 🙂

  • Jim Di Griz says:


    ‘So you guys are suggesting it’s more sloth than sinister?’

    It could be sinister.
    30,000 Japanese commit suicide every year. 10% receive autopsies. 90% do not. Isn’t it better for ‘team Japan’ to chalk them all up to suicide (it’s the global bad economy and the strong Japanese work ethic that is the cause meme), rather than investigate cause of death, and potentially find that the murder rate in Japan has sky-rocketed! What would that do to Japan’s image as the ‘safest country in the world’? Not just that, how could the Jcops ever hope to solve so many murders, when they rely on confessions? Investigation is not their strong suit. What would happen to public confidence in the police if the number of unsolved murders shot up 30,000 every year?

  • In my and my family’s experience, there is a tendency for police to try to ‘resolve’ cases unofficially, usually by persuading the plaintiff to drop the case.

    This has happened to the people around me in burglary, sexual assault, and property damage cases. In each case, the police were reluctant to take on the case, claiming it would be difficult, dangerous (to the plaintiff!), or time-consuming to continue. I would not be in the slightest bit surprised if this also happened in more serious cases.

    This does seem to be changing though, as we have had better responses recently. The younger generation of police seem to be more professional, polite, etc. although that may be just the specific people I have talked to.

  • the sad part for all these victims is that no one has been held accountable. And these are not just isolated cases because this same injustice or incompetence has happened again and again.I remember not very long ago that we were discussing how the NJ got choked and killed in a bar and nothing happened to the J-punk that killed him, and also how about the NJ guy that got run over by another J-punk actually hit-n-run and got off scott free. This are all related so we need to start keeping a list/record of all this injustice

  • crustpunker says:

    “claiming it would be difficult, dangerous ot time consuming to continue”

    I am sorry but IF this is true, it is truly the most disgusting thing I have ever heard.
    WHAT do police take on then?


  • Jim Di Griz says:


    Sendaibens comment seems pretty real to me. Last year my (Japanese) wife’s sister had a car accident. Her car was totaled. The other driver (Japanese) was uninsured. The police advised her to take no action, and let her insurance company pay for everything, because the other driver was ‘a bit of a bad guy’, from ‘a bad family’, and ‘might make trouble’ for her.
    I couldn’t believe it when I heard that. As an uninsured driver, the police should take action regardless of the crash! I guess the Jpolice don’t ‘protect and serve’. What aggravated me even more was that my wife’s sister just had a ‘can’t be helped’ attitude about it.

  • @Jim Di Griz

    That’s pretty much been my experience as well. Police here don’t “protect and serve”, they “harass and violate”. I had an experience where I had to call the police multiple times because the same trespassers kept coming and hanging out in my apartment building day after day. The police kept “warning” them, without taking any other action; no tickets, no threat of arrest, nothing. So after several weeks of this, I finally went down and talked to the trespassers myself, and they never came back after that.

    The police were totally ineffective. Contrast this with their gung-ho attitude toward stopping innocents on the street and pressing for searches and such. It doesn’t make any sense.

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    The huge media coverage (read “circus”?) surrounding the (Chinese) prisoner who escaped but was recaptured contrasts with a story later on the same program where the police have just released security footage of a violent hold-up that took place nearly a week before, and at least one other hold-up with the same M.O. has happened since.
    Two criminals at large. One gets all his details pasted on national TV literally within minutes, while the other (despite his face being captured on video) is kept under wraps for the better part of a week before the police decide to appeal to the public.

    I’m not suggesting racism, but I have noticed a lack of consistency of police competence in dealing with NJ crime vs. J crime.

  • Raymond Wozniak says:

    I am a retired Georgia Department of Corrections official with a total of 37 years of experience and a degree in criminology, nursing and Psychology. I have visited Japan 6 times, studied the language at Georgia State University, and lived in nearby Korea for 4 years. I was Scott Kang’s teacher in church and accompanied his dad to Japan to investigate Scott’s death. We were treated very poorly by the Jpolice.
    I told them exactly how Scott was murdered and by whom. They ignored my presence and would not even look st me. That Scott was Korean-American meant that they had to excuses the perp.


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