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Inheritance squabble likely led to murder in Tokyo family

Shukan Jitsuwa Aug. 20-27
Shukan Jitsuwa Aug. 20-27

In the early morning hours of May 4, a call came in to an emergency services switchboard in Tokyo.

“A woman bleeding from her head has died,” the male caller said.

Upon arrival to a residence in the Kohoku area of Adachi Ward, metropolitan police found Hiroko Egawa, 45, lying dead in the entrance.

A letter, purportedly written by Egawa and indicating a desire to die, was found at the scene, and a knife covered in blood was discovered near her body.

Certainly, early indications pointed suicide. However, the results of an autopsy caused the focus to shift to murder — and the distribution of a large inheritance within a family with a long history as a landowner might have been the motive for the crime, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (Aug. 20-27).

“The results of the autopsy indicated that certain scars on the body were not consistent with self-mutilation,” an investigator tells the magazine. “With that, and the cause of death being suffocation due to strangulation, the investigation team changed tact to murder.”

On July 31, police arrested the victim’s two sisters. The night before the body was found by police, Etsuko Egawa, a 43-year-old employee in the real estate industry, and Mayumi Kosugiyama, 37, are alleged to have stabbed Hiroko in the head with a fruit knife and strangled her with a belt. Police believe the suspects arranged the evidence at the scene of the crime to make it look as if Hiroko took her own life.

Over a period leading up to the murder, police believe that the perpetrators communicated via the smartphone application Line.

Data retrieved from the mobile phones of the suspects revealed that they had exchanged information on the activities of the victim, such as whether she had entered the shower or not. “This ends today,” one message said.

After the crime, Kaoru Fukazawa, the 44-year-old common-law husband of Etsuko, made the phone call to emergency services. He was also arrested.

The impetus for such a grim crime appears to have been a fight over money.

Etsuko and Hiroko shared the family’s residence in which the crime was committed. Their father had been an employee at an electric power company prior to his death three years ago. In August of last year, their mother passed away.

“There were rumors going around that there had been a dispute over the inheritance,” says a neighborhood resident.

Since before World War II, the Egawa Family has been a large landowner. In the case of the father of the sisters, his land is worth approximately 150 million yen. Further, a real estate agent estimates the monthly rent attainable from the 12 apartments and 40-space parking area that also form part of the estate to be around 1.2 million yen.

“The father’s will clearly stipulated that the inheritance was to be divided among the three daughters,” says an acquaintance of the father.

Etsuko Egawa
Etsuko Egawa

It didn’t turn out that way. Hiroko divorced her husband after the death of her mother. She then moved into the family residence with her daughter, who is in elementary school.

“After the divorce, she became depressed and was in the hospital for a period,” says the acquaintance.

The friction in the family likely came from the mother’s distribution of the family’s wealth, which did not follow the supposed plan of her husband.

“Hiroko was left the majority of the fixed assets,” continues the acquaintance. “Etsuko received the rental businesses — and this created trouble. Etsuko then seems to have requested that Hiroko rectify the situation.”

To be sure, a dark chapter in the history of a legendary family that will require further elucidation in due course, assures Shukan Jitsuwa. (A.T.)

Source: “Adachi-ku ‘bijin 3 shimai’ jisatsu giso satsujin bakudaina isan wo meguru Doro-numa no aizo geki,” Shukan Jitsuwa (Aug. 20-27, pages 226-227)