Murder! / 殺人!

Mrs M appeared on TV the other day, although anonymously and with her face pixillated out. This was because she was talking about a high school classmate of hers who, believe it or not, is a murder suspect, as reported in these two news items from the 16th June edition of the Ibaraki Newspaper:

Wife and her acquaintance arrested – Chiropractor under investigation – Murder suspect ‘worried about violence’

After an incident in which chiropractor Takayuki Sawada (37) was stabbed to death in a fifth-floor apartment in Hitachi-Naka City, police from Hitachi-Naka West Precinct have arrested Sawada’s wife Satsuki Sawada (38, also a chiropractor) and a customer at their clinic, junior nurse Akiyo Kikuchi (27) of East Ohnuma Town, Hitachi City, on suspicion of murder. According to sources close to the investigation,  Mrs Sawada has said, ‘I was worried about my husband’s violence in the home’. The same police precinct is looking at whether problems within the marriage were a motive for the killing.

According to the same police precinct, both suspects have confirmed the chain of events.

The two women are suspected of conspiring to murder Mr Sawada by stabbing him with a sharp-bladed weapon at around 4am on 14th June, in an apartment in East Ishikawa, Hitachi-Naka City.

Based on a statement by Ms Kikuchi, West Precinct police have discovered a kitchen knife and bloodstained clothing in Mito City centre. The knife appears to be from the Sawadas’ apartment.

The two suspects have said that, ‘Ms Kikuchi carried out the stabbing after Mrs Sawada let her into the apartment’. West Precinct police are looking at whether Kikuchi took the more active role in committing the crime, and at whether the apartment’s living room was the crime scene. An official autopsy is being performed on Mr Sawada’s body to determine the cause of death.

According to sources close to the investigation, Mr Sawada’s upper body had been stabbed numerous times, with stab wounds to his back and chest. Based on the fact that Mr Sawada had been stabbed both from the front and from behind, West Precinct police are regarding the stabbing as being with malicious intent.

West Precinct police transferred Mrs Sawada to Mito public prosecutor’s office on 15th June.

Possibility crime was planned

What can have gone on between the couple? After an incident in which a male chiropractor was murdered, the victim’s wife and a customer at the clinic the couple ran together have been arrested, and investigations into a motive for the crime and the chain of events that led up to it are now ongoing. According to sources close to the investigation, Ms Kikuchi has admitted that she visited the Sawada’s apartment. Mrs Sawada has said that, ‘I confided in Ms Kikuchi that I was worried about my husband’s violent behaviour,’ and Hitachi-Naka West Precinct are looking into the possibility that the two suspects had been planning the murder for some time.

Mrs Sawada called the emergency services at approximately 5.40am on 14th June and said, ‘My husband has fallen over, he’s covered in blood.’

‘When I got up this morning, my husband had fallen over,’ she explained.

An unemployed man in his sixties who lives in the same apartment block as Mrs Sawada said, ‘She was considerate and seemed like a very nice woman. I’m shocked [about the arrest].’

Ms Kikuchi was employed at a hospital in central Mito, and lived with her parents and older sister in Hitachi City. According to reporters, on the morning of 15th June, Ms Kikuchi’s family said, ‘[Ms Kikuchi] really admired Mrs Sawada.’

According to neighbours, Kikuchi was mild-mannered and courteous. Looking visibly shocked, a man in his forties said, ‘When you met her, she was the kind of girl who always bowed her head and said hello. That something like this has happened is unthinkable’.

Another high school classmate of Mrs M’s called to tell us what had happened as we were driving to the in-laws’, and while I was at Japanese class later in the evening, a reporter and cameraman turned up and filmed the interview, along with some footage of Mrs M looking at her high school yearbook.

Even though Mrs M was a member of the high school student council, and came in more regular contact with her contemporaries than most, she can’t remember much about Kikuchi, and hadn’t even realised they were in the same class together beyond the first year until she looked at the yearbook. Apparently Kikuchi was quiet without being obviously neurotic, although the reporter’s questions were very much of the ‘So you’re saying she didn’t have many friends?’ variety, and seemed to justify otoh-san’s suspicions about news reporters and their sensationalist tendencies.

When the interview was screened the following morning I had already left for work, but I saw an item on the evening news that filled in some of the details of the case.

As well as being a patient at the chiropractic clinic, Kikuchi helped out there in her spare time, and having befriended Kikuchi, Sawada sold her three hand-made ‘power stone’ bracelets. These have been fashionable in Japan for a few years, and allegedly possess healing powers, which must have been why Kikuchi was willing to fork out the equivalent of a hundred pounds each for them. The reason Kikuchi owned several, a friend of hers explained, was that a power stone needs to be taken off on a regular basis and left for a day or two so that its ‘power’ can be replenished.

Surprisingly, Kikuchi’s family also appeared in the report (although like Mrs M on the morning news, their faces were blurred) and said that in the weeks leading up to the murder, Kikuchi was ‘in a dark mood’, ‘unusually quiet’ and ‘worried about something’.

Another interviewee said that Sawada had suffered broken teeth and broken ribs, so one can only assume the allegations of domestic violence were true, although it was the manner in which Sawada did away with her husband that makes the story so intriguing. The word sen-noh (洗脳 / brainwashing) was used several times in the news report, and she appears to have preyed on Kikuchi’s vulnerability in order, ultimately, to use her not just as an accomplice but as a kind of hired killer. Ironically, the more you find out about the case, the more Kikuchi begins to seem like the innocent party, even though she was the one who allegedly wielded the murder weapon.

As newsreaders are fond of saying, more on this story as we get it, and in the meantime, here are the Ibarkai Newspaper items in the original Japanese:


















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