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Setagaya family murders 20 years on: ‘It’s a case that must be solved’

The bodies of the four members of the Miyazawa family were found at their residence in Setagaya Ward on December 31, 2000 (NHK)
TOKYO (TR) – Thursday will mark the 20th anniversary of the murders of four members of a family at their residence in Setagaya Ward.

Though no persons have been apprehended, Tokyo Metropolitan Police remain steadfast in their resolve to find the perpetrator.

“It’s a case that must be solved,” Yasunori Hirose, once the chief investigator on the case, tells NHK (Dec 25).

On December 31, 2000, Mikio Miyazawa, 44, his wife, 41-year-old Yasuko, and their two children — 8-year-old daughter Niina and 6-year-old son Rei — were found dead inside their residence in the Kamisoshigaya area.

The results of the subsequent investigation revealed that a male intruder strangled Rei and fatally stabbed the other three family members likely the night before the discovery of their bodies.

Based on evidence found at the scene, police also learned that the perpetrator was probably wearing dark pants, a long-sleeve undershirt, a scarf, hat, gloves and sport shoes. He carried a fanny pack and a knife.

With a thin build, he stood about 170 centimeters tall. His blood type is A.

Tokyo police displayed a mannequin with the same clothing as the perpetrator at Seijogakuen-mae Station on December 26 (NHK)

DNA analysis

Though the case is two decades old, police are not giving up. An investigative source tells Sankei Shimbun (Dec. 30) that police plan to use DNA analyses of material found at the scene and the latest technology to render an image of the face and appearance of the perpetrator.

Police had previously said that the results of DNA analyses revealed that the father of the perpetrator is of Asian descent and his mother is from southern European.

On this past Saturday, about 40 officers from the Seijo Police Station handed out leaflets with information on the case to commuters at Seijogakuen-mae Station. A mannequin with the aforementioned clothing was also on display at the station.

The leaflet also indicates that a reward of 20 million yen is on offer for the provision of information that leads to the capture of the perpetrator.

The perpetrator in the murders of four members of a family in Setagaya Ward in 2000 wore a long-sleeve shirt (NHK)

Long-sleeve shirt

Police believe the murders took place on the night of December 30. Based on fingerprints and other evidence, he is then believed to have eaten ice cream and accessed a compute. He left the residence early the following morning.

Hirose, the aforementioned former investigator, tells NHK that of particular interest was the long-sleeve shirt, which was blue and white. At the time, four shops in Tokyo sold it.

“It was a distinctive shirt,” Hirose says. “At that time, these shirts were popular with young people, and they were worn for exercising, taking a walk or as nightwear when sleeping. We asked Chinese manufacturer to make them again and have them distributed at police stations and other locations in Tokyo in order to collect information from the public.”

Yasunori Hirose (NHK)

“It’s painful”

Hirose regularly makes visits to the residence to pay his respects. “There was a piano inside, and I can imagine Yasuko-san teaching Niina-chan and Rei-kun how to play,” he says. “She seems to have been an active young lady, so she was probably showing [her children] how to play.”

Since the investigation started, police have received about 14,000 pieces of information from the public, yet no arrests have been made.

Miyazawa’s mother, 89-year-old Setsuko, tells the Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 29) that she wants the case to be solved while she is still alive. “Every time I see the pictures of the four [family members], my memories [of that time] come rushing back, and it’s painful,” she says.

Hirose says that it is “deeply regrettable” that the case remains unsolved. “With advances in science and technology, I believe that [police] will locate the criminal and eventually arrest him,” he says.

However, he adds that the public must do its part. “Any [piece of information] is fine,” he says. “So please provide anything you can.”

Persons with information on the case are advised to call the Seijo Police Station at 03-3482-3829.