Elderly woman found after 7 years

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

A 67-year-old woman missing in Tokyo since 2007 has been reunited with her family at a care facility in Gunma Prefecture after she appeared on a TV program about dementia, police said Wednesday.

Mieko Yanagida met her family on Monday for the first time in almost seven years, a day after they saw her on an NHK program and contacted the public broadcaster, a spokesman for the community safety planning division of the Gunma Prefectural Police said.

While the turn of events sounds lucky, Yanagida could have been located much earlier had there not been a mix-up concerning the way her name was written.

“Though we don’t have relevant documents surrounding her custody left, a document sent to police departments across the country seeking her identity stated the name ‘Emiko,’ which was written on her underwear,” he said, adding that basic information including her name and address was unknown at that time.

When police took protective custody of Yanagida near Tatebayashi Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line in Gunma Prefecture on Oct. 30, 2007, her first name was recorded as Emiko, not Mieko, according to the police spokesman.

When Gunma police sent a notice to police departments across the country seeking Yanagida’s identity, the document contained her incorrect first name, the spokesman said.

Her family reported her disappearance to the Asakusa Police Station in Tokyo on Oct. 31, 2007, the spokesman said.

Afterward, Yanagida was moved to a care facility in the city of Tatebayashi.

Police did not learn her family name until December of last year, but they still could not confirm her identity by searching the database of missing people, the spokesman said.

Police are now interviewing relevant officials to find out why Yanagida’s name was recorded inaccurately after she was taken into protective custody.

Although there are no documents left concerning her time in custody, the spokesman said police may have believed her name was Emiko because it was written that way on her underwear. Or they may have simply misspelled her name accidentally.

“As we don’t have documents left, we’re now searching whether police officers at that time got her name wrong or misspelled her name,” by interviewing relevant officials, he said. “She could have been found earlier if we had more close contact with (relevant parties) and made more efforts to confirm her name,” the spokesman said.

Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, said Tuesday that police will look into more effective ways to find and protect missing people, based on recent incidents.

In 2012, there were 9,607 reports of missing people due to suspected dementia, accounting for 11.8 percent of all missing person reports for the year, the National Police Agency says. The agency began compiling the figures for disappearance due to possible dementia in 2012.

Information from Kyodo added

  • Ron NJ

    So the big question – why were the documents all destroyed or otherwise unavailable? It’s not like this was a dormant case or something, she had only been missing since 2007. Sounds like another poor attempt at covering up incompetence.