Saitama police fire trio over false-evidence case

Kyodo

Saitama Prefectural Police dismissed three of its officers Thursday after turning over to prosecutors their case against them for alleged falsification of written evidence related to the October 1999 murder of a 21-year-old college student.

Two Ageo Police Station officers and their former boss are suspected of falsifying the report of a complaint filed in September by the victim, Shiori Ino, and her family.

Ino, a second-year student at Atomi College, was stabbed to death on Oct. 26 in front of a train station in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture.

Police allege that officers Toshio Katagiri, 48, Tsuyoshi Honda, 40, and Hirokazu Furuta, 54 wrote in the report that the family merely claimed the coed had been harassed, when in fact they had filed a criminal complaint against unidentified people who allegedly defamed her.

In addition to the dismissals, the National Public Safety Commission, which oversees the National Police Agency, reprimanded Hiroshi Nishimura, head of the Saitama prefectural force, and Izumi Yokouchi, the force’s criminal department chief, in connection with the case.

The commission cut Nishimura’s salary by 10 percent for a month, while Yokouchi faced a 5 percent pay cut for one month.

“I extend my heartfelt apology to the family,” Nishimura said at a press conference over the mishandling of the complaint. He said that if police had investigated the defamation, the slaying could have been prevented.

The Ageo Police Station head and six other Saitama officers were also punished by the prefectural force for lax supervision and insufficient investigations. into the case.

The Ageo chief and three others visited Ino’s house Thursday to apologize. for their mishandling of the case.

Ino and her family told police last July that the she had been stalked by her ex-boyfriend and that defamatory fliers had been distributed around their house.

The ex-boyfriend, Kazuhito Komatsu, 27, was on a wanted list for her murder. He was found dead of an apparent suicide in Hokkaido in January.

Four men, including Komatsu’s brother, were arrested last December in connection with Ino’s murder. Police later served them with fresh warrants accusing them of defaming her. Nine other people were also arrested over distributing the fliers.

Saitama police have come under fire for allegedly asking Ino and her family to drop their defamation complaint. NPA head Setsuo Tanaka had pledged to investigate the case in the Diet.

The prefectural force punished its officials based on a report compiled during in-house investigations into the case.