Stalker-killer's life term upheld

'Injury resulting in death' argument fails to sway court

by Masami Ito

The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday upheld a life sentence for a man who stalked and played a part in the slaying of a 21-year-old woman who had broken off a relationship with his brother.

The sensational slaying led to establishment of an antistalking law and drew condemnation of police who ignored warnings from the victim.

The court Tuesday deemed Takeshi Komatsu the ringleader in the murder of Shiori Ino, who was fatally stabbed outside JR Okegawa Station in Saitama Prefecture in October 1999 by his accomplice, Yoshifumi Kubota.

Presiding Judge Fumio Yasuhiro said the murder was “based on a definite intent to kill and was audacious and cruel,” suddenly snuffing out a life at the young age of 21.

Kubota and two other men were handed prison terms ranging from 15 to 18 years.

After Ino broke up with Komatsu’s brother, Kazuhito, the defendant began to stalk and harass her. In August 1999, several months before the murder, the two brothers and the other accomplices posted and distributed more than 300 fliers in Ino’s neighborhood and at her university, defaming her with claims that she accepted money for dates and preyed on men.

After the slaying and during a police manhunt, Kazuhito Komatsu’s body was found in Hokkaido in January 2000, dead of an apparent suicide.

Although Komatsu pleaded not guilty, the Saitama District Court in December 2003 ruled he had Kubota kill Ino.

During Komatsu’s appeal trial, he continued to deny being party to murder but accepted being party to committing “injury resulting in death.”

The high court Tuesday upheld all charges against Komatsu, including murder and defamation.

“The agony and grief of(Ino’s) parents is beyond description,” Judge Yasuhiro said, calling Komatsu’s “criminal responsibility extremely heavy.”

At a news conference after the ruling, the victim’s mother, Kyoko, said she got some relief from the decision.

“We lost our only daughter,” she said. “For the past six years, we have been suffering, living in hell. . . . (My husband and I) have to bear this anger and sadness for the rest of our lives.”

Dressed in her daughter’s suit and wearing her necklace, she expressed anger toward Komatsu, saying he “may have admitted to injury resulting in death, but he has shown no sign of remorse. I cannot hate him enough.”

After the harassment began, Ino filed a formal criminal complaint at the Ageo Police Station in July 1999 — only to be ignored.

Three Saitama Prefectural Police officers were later convicted and given suspended sentences for falsifying her criminal complaint and demand for an investigation into the stalking.

Ino’s parents sued the Saitama Prefectural Government in December 2000, citing negligence on the part of police, who failed to act on her complaint.

Both the Saitama District Court and Tokyo High Court ordered the prefecture to pay 5.5 million yen in damages because police “betrayed the hope and trust” of Ino. The court, however, denied a causal link between the police negligence and Ino’s murder.

Ino’s parents have appealed their case to the Supreme Court. The slaying triggered debate about how police investigated stalking incidents and led to enactment of the antistalking law, which took effect in November 2000.