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Bali court begins trial of man accused of murdering Japanese couple

Kyodo

A court in the Indonesian resort island of Bali has opened the trial of a 25-year-old local man indicted for the murder of an elderly Japanese couple during a home invasion last September.

The trial session began late Tuesday afternoon at a district court in the Bali provincial capital of Denpasar. Chief Prosecutor I Putu Gede Darmawan Hadi Seputra said in an indictment that defendant I Putu Astawa “has purposely taken someone else’s life” to steal belongings.

On Sept. 4, Norio Matsuba, 76, and his wife, Hiroko, 73, were found dead at their rented house with stab wounds. Their faces were burned beyond recognition.

A day earlier at 8:30 a.m., according to the indictment, Astawa was passing in front of the couple’s house in a quiet residential area in Jimbaran when he noticed the front gate was open.

Upon encountering Hiroko Matsuba on the second floor of the house, he allegedly attempted to snatch her bag — thinking there was money inside it — and when she fought back, the indictment says, he stabbed her with a knife he found outside the house and tied her up.

The couple had been living in Bali for about five years after living in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung for more than 10 years.

During police questioning, Astawa, who lived about 1 km from the house, confessed that he had stolen ¥11,000 ($99) from the bag, investigators have said. He also told the police that he returned at 10 p.m. carrying two bottles of gasoline, incense and matches, which he used to set fire to the house.

Astawa, who worked as a driver, told the police he had debts of some 10 million rupiah (about ¥79,000).

If found guilty of committing premeditated murder, Astawa may face the death penalty.