National

Man had strangled female passenger before driving car off cliff in Aomori Prefecture, police say

Kyodo

An autopsy has found that a woman, initially believed to have died with a man when a car drove off a cliff in Aomori Prefecture, was strangled to death before the incident, police said Tuesday.

The police said they suspect the 39-year-old man, Masatoshi Ikejima, killed 32-year-old Asami Sato before the car fell 40 meters down a cliff in the prefecture on Sunday afternoon.

Ikejima, a truck driver from neighboring Akita Prefecture, told several acquaintances that he had killed a woman and wanted to die. Bruises were found on Sato’s neck and she is believed to have been killed sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning after meeting with a friend, according to the police.

The police suspect Ikejima strangled Sato, loaded her body into his car and killed himself by driving off the cliff.

Sato contacted police about a week earlier after being violently assaulted by Ikejima, telling them she planned to end her relationship with him.

Ikejima and Sato were found dead after the car drove off the cliff at a parking lot in the town of Fukaura at 5:25 p.m.

The police had been looking for the two after their families filed missing-persons reports.

Five minutes before the fatal incident, the police had spotted Ikejima’s car in another parking lot at a roadside facility. But the vehicle suddenly took off north before pulling into the parking lot where it went over the cliff.

The police said their patrol car had its red light flashing to indicate it was in pursuit but that its siren was not on and it had maintained a safe distance from the vehicle.