National / Crime & Legal

Chile agrees to let French investigators question suspect about Japanese student's disappearance


French investigators will travel to Chile next month to question a man suspected of killing his Japanese ex-girlfriend, who vanished from her university residence in France in 2016, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Nicolas Zepeda is the sole suspect in the disappearance of Narumi Kurosaki, 21, who vanished in the eastern French city of Besancon on the night of Dec. 4, 2016, after having dinner with Zepeda, her 28-year-old ex.

Her body has not yet been found, despite extensive searches of a nearby forested area.

Authorities in France believe she was suffocated by Zepeda in a jealous rage. He has denied any involvement in her disappearance.

Besancon’s public prosecutor, Etienne Manteaux, said that Chilean authorities had agreed to allow a French team of investigators to travel to Chile to question the teaching assistant, who left France shortly after Kurosaki’s disappearance.

Manteaux said the team would travel to Chile “during the second half of April.”

Kurosaki and Zepeda met in Japan and started a relationship but later split.

She was last seen dining with him in a restaurant a short drive from Besancon, a town in the foothills of the Alps.

He has admitted to going to her university residence afterward and claims the pair had consensual sex.

Fellow students said they heard terrified cries and banging noises in the residence on that night but no traces of blood were found in her room.

Chilean authorities have so far declined to serve an international warrant issued by France for his arrest.

Manteaux said they had, however, agreed to let French investigators be present when Zepeda is questioned by a Chilean prosecutor, and that they will also be allowed to ask questions.

Manteaux added that he was hoping to convince the Chileans that the evidence against Zepeda was strong enough to bring charges against him, paving the way for France to file a request for his extradition.

Manteaux told a news conference in November that Zepeda had bought five liters of flammable liquid and matches at a supermarket days before Kurosaki disappeared and that his rental car was returned covered in mud.