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A human organ sample submitted to a court by a medical examiner who claims to have performed an autopsy on a man found dead in his car in 1997 in fact belonged to a woman, it was learned Saturday.

The latest finding by a laboratory at Tsukuba University sheds new light on the long-disputed mystery surrounding the death of Mikio Kubo in July 1997.

Kubo’s family is suing the Kanagawa Prefectural Police for negligence that resulted in his death, and is charging that the medical examiner compiled a false report without performing an autopsy.

“We are really surprised to hear that the organ sample belongs to a woman. We hope this new information will uncover the truth,” said one of the family members.

The Tsukuba University lab, which examined the sample at the request of the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office, concluded that the organ sample came from a woman with blood type AB, according to sources close to the case. Kubo had blood type B.

The Yokohama prosecutors, who last year reopened an investigation into the case, now plan to question the medical examiner, who is now 73, the sources said.

According to the Kanagawa police, two officers found the self-employed Kubo slumped inside a car near an intersection in Hodogaya Ward, Yokohama, in the early hours of July 19, 1997.

Although there were cracks in the car’s windshield, the officers determined that Kubo, 54, was drunk and had fallen asleep, and left the scene after moving the car to the side of the road.

The next day, Kubo was found dead inside the car, and the medical examiner said an autopsy showed that he had died from heart failure, police say.

In 1998, Kubo’s family filed a criminal complaint against the Kanagawa police and the medical examiner. They charge that Kubo had been injured in a traffic accident when the two officers found him, and subsequently died because the officers failed to render assistance.

The family is accusing the medical examiner of falsifying a report that stated Kubo died of illness and did not perform an autopsy.

The Kanagawa police have maintained that the officers acted properly. The medical examiner has insisted he performed an autopsy and submitted to the court what he claimed to be a sample of one of Kubo’s organs.

In April 2002, Shigemi Oshida, a professor of forensic medicine at Nihon University who was commissioned by a court dealing with a separate damages suit filed by the family, said DNA analysis showed that the sample is likely not that of Kubo.

In January 2003, the Yokohama Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution determined that the two Kanagawa police officers acted inappropriately by leaving Kubo unattended in the car, prompting the Yokohama prosecutors to reopen the investigation into the case.

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