NEW YORK – The search for a Japanese woman who vanished early last month in the Vancouver area came to a grim conclusion Friday after police announced they had found her body.
A suspect in the death, William Schneider, 48, was arrested hours after the body of 30-year-old Natsumi Kogawa was found Wednesday night on the grounds of a vacant historic mansion.
Surveillance footage released by the authorities last week showed Kogawa, from Aomori Prefecture, walking with Schneider in downtown Vancouver on Sept. 8.
The historic property had sat vacant behind construction fencing for several years since being sold to a developer, local media reported.
Schneider, of no fixed address, is charged with indignity to a human body and remains in custody while the investigation is ongoing, the Canadian Press reported Friday.
According to CBC News, Schneider has a criminal record that includes theft, armed robbery, possession of a controlled substance, breach of probation, breaking and entering, and assault with a weapon.
Vancouver Police Acting Sgt. Brian Montague was quoted as saying that he could not offer any information about the relationship between the two.
The report said an autopsy was scheduled for Monday to determine when and how Kogawa died.
Police said they had informed Kogawa’s relatives in Japan of the grisly discovery.
In front of the mansion, several Japanese living in Vancouver placed flowers to mourn her death.
“Because I’m in the same situation (she was), I think this is truly regrettable,” said a 31-year-old woman from Mie Prefecture who is studying English there.
The Aomori native attended an English language school in Vancouver from May to July. She disappeared after exchanging text messages on Line on Sept. 8.
At the Kogawa family’s home in the city of Aomori on Saturday, her mother told Kyodo News that she had received a call from the Japanese Foreign Ministry informing her that her daughter’s body had been found and a suspect arrested.
“I was hoping that she would come back safe and sound. It’s still hard to believe,” she said. “My daughter was always generous and cared about her family.”
Kogawa’s friends and acquaintances were stunned.
Yusuke Ashida, who runs a company that arranged Kogawa’s language study program in Canada, was separately trying to gather information about her whereabouts in Vancouver.
“I strongly hope (the body found) was another person’s,” Ashida had told Kyodo New shortly before the body was identified.
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