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Police suspect top Kodansha editor staged wife’s slaying to look like suicide

Kyodo

A deputy editor of major publisher Kodansha Ltd. who has been arrested on suspicion of killing his 38-year-old wife last August may have disguised the murder to make it look like a suicide, investigative sources said Wednesday.

The suspect, 41-year-old Pak Jung-hyun, who was arrested Tuesday, has denied committing murder but has made inconsistent statements, the sources said.

He initially told police that his wife, Kanako, had fallen from the stairs at their home in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward on Aug. 9. At around 2:45 a.m. that day, Pak called an ambulance saying he had found his wife collapsed.

However, on Wednesday — more than five months later — Pak changed his account, saying his wife had committed suicide by hanging herself from the handrail of the stairs in her home using his jacket, according to investigators.

“There was trouble when I came back home (on Aug. 9), and my wife brought out a knife,” Pak was quoted as telling investigators Wednesday. “Afterward, I found my wife had hanged herself.”

An autopsy indicated that the wife had been strangled, the sources said. However, no sign of urine, which is produced when a person is strangled, was found in the spot where Pak claims the suicide occurred, they said.

Investigators did find traces of urine at the bottom of the staircase, where police at the scene found the body, and in a bedroom on the first floor.

The wife also had scratches on her forehead. Additionally, the sources said, no traces of his wife’s DNA were found on the jacket Pak claimed was used in the suicide.

Authorities have judged that the wife had no obvious motive to kill herself, and that there were no traces of a break-in.

This growing body of evidence has led police to believe that Pak strangled his wife in the bedroom, carried her body to the top of the stairs and pushed her down to make it look like she committed suicide or died in an accident.

They decided the death was suspicious because of contradictions in the explanations of the couple’s children, who were in the home at the time of the incident, as well as evidence from the scene and Pak’s differing statements.

Pak also told investigators he had argued with his wife over child care issues. The couple has four children.

Sources said the wife had consulted a child care support center in Bunkyo Ward, telling the staff that her husband did not help with child rearing.

But Pak, who had taken paternity leave, was seen by his colleagues and others as being actively involved in child care. He has also tweeted conversations with the children and uploaded pictures taken with them.

A neighbor said the wife was “sociable,” often exchanging greetings with others. “We’re living in a quiet place. So I was surprised that an incident like this happened,” he said.

Pak had told his colleagues about his wife’s death but had not talked about its cause, some of the colleagues said.

“He was very talented. I was shocked,” one colleague said. “This could cause immeasurable damage to our comics department and the company as a whole.”

Pak is known in the industry for having played a major role in launching and editing the Kodansha-published comic Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, which has produced popular series such as “Attack on Titan.”

Police raided the Kodansha office in Bunkyo Ward on Tuesday and confiscated Pak’s personal belongings and other items.