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Much about the killer of a four-member family in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward still remains a mystery despite many clues, including fingerprints and bloodstains, having been left at the site of the high-profile homicide case in December 2000.

Although Tokyo police were confident at the time of the incident that they would be able to capture the killer quickly, the brutal murder case has yet to be solved, with Wednesday marking 20 years of the tragedy with the murderer still on the run. The Metropolitan Police Department, which has detected a DNA sample of a man, is pinning high hopes on advancements in forensic science.

In the incident, corporate employee Mikio Miyazawa, then 44, his wife Yasuko, then 41, and their daughter, Niina, then 8, were stabbed to death with a kitchen knife, while the couple’s son, Rei, then 6, was strangled. The murder took place at the family’s home in the Kamisoshigaya district in Setagaya between the late hours of Dec. 30, 2000, and the early hours of the following day.

Clear fingerprints and type A blood believed to be from the killer were collected at the site, sparking hopes among officers at the MPD’s Seijo Station, which served as the headquarters for the investigation of the murder case, that such critical evidence would lead them to find the criminal easily.

Back then, a senior officer said, “This is a criminal we can catch.”

The investigators focused on identifying the killer using the fingerprints, but their efforts did not bear fruit.

There are criticisms that the initial investigation was insufficient, with some saying that the officers failed to obtain information from various sources, including people in the family’s neighborhood.

The investigators “placed too much focus on the fingerprints and failed to do enough on other methods,” another senior officer said.

The murderer left many things at the scene, including a sweatshirt, a scarf and a handkerchief, as well as the kitchen knife.

The killer is thought to be approximately 170 centimeters tall. Considering the length of the belt for a pouch left at the scene, the police suspect that the killer was slim, with the person’s waist measuring 70-75 centimeters.

The investigators also suspect that the murderer could have been a student aged around between 15 and 29 at the time as colorants used for a highlighter pen were found attached inside the pouch.

Also, there are suspicions that the killer may have been non-Japanese.

Shoe prints left at the site of the crime were confirmed to be those of sneakers made in South Korea. It was also found at the same time that the size of the shoes was not available in Japan.

DNA testing showed that the killer’s mother may be of European heritage, according to investigative sources.

Still, the findings did not rule out the possibility of the suspect being Japanese.

It is believed that the killer wrapped the handkerchief around the handle of the kitchen knife when assaulting the family.

The police learned that this resembles the way of wrapping a knife handle with cloth, mainly during religious rituals, in the northern part of the Philippines.

The MPD asked Philippine police for cooperation in the investigations, but the police department found no clues helping it identify the killer.

The investigation headquarters is still working to confirm the whereabouts of foreign nationals who were around the Setagaya family’s house at the time.

“Catching the suspect is all that matters,” a high-ranking officer said. “We have to think without making assumptions.”

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