"I want to meet you again (Memoirs of the Bereaved)"
Published by Tokyo Municipal Victim Support Center.
The murder case, in which an Australian boy killed our daughter, betrayed the legend that Australia is a safe country.
Yokohama City, Mikio Okuyama
I. Outline of the Case
Our only daughter, Michiko left Japan for Cairns, Australia on 14th September 1997, in order to acquire a diving instructor's license, and this incident took place on 20th September.
Believing that Australia is a safe and ordered country and because Cairns is a Mecca for diving, our daughter went to Cairns to acquire the final instructors license, so that she could introduce people of all nations to the Great Barrier Reef and act as a go-between for the people around the globe and the Australians.
The incident happened after 11o'clock 20th September, when our daughter told her roommate at where she was staying, "I'm going to the post office and do some shopping" and left for town. After having posted mail to her friends and shopped in the supermarket in preparation of supper, the incident occurred on the way back to where she was staying in middle of the town and in the daylight. She was only a few minutes walk away from where she was staying, when an Australian boy took here to an unoccupied house and killed her.
After she was reported missing, we rushed to Cairns in haste and started a serious search effort with the local police force. Two weeks later, our daughter's body was found in a swamp, far from the first scene of crime.
This case was one where a young lady, staying in Cairns, trusted Australians and was trying to realise her lifetime dream, was killed by an Australian boy (who was at the time 16), with whom she had no connection or acquaintance. This murder case is one where the corpse was taken to a swamp and left there naked, something that is so brutal and foul that it totally ignores the human rights.
The criminal, his parents and the Australian government made no apologies to us, the victims, even after the verdict was decided. There has been no expression of an intention to apologise or pay compensation and we are left with the feelings of the victims of the crime being ignored.
We cannot forgive this cruel and foul inhuman murder case. It is our intention to continue the protest until we win a sincere apology and compensation from the criminal, his parents and the Australian government.
1. Outline of the Circumstances of the Case
14th Sept: Our daughter left for Cairns, Australia in order to acquire diving instructor license.
19th Sept: Our daughter telephoned in the evening. She reported on how she was doing since she had arrived, what she was intending to do and about the conditions of where she was staying. We, her parents checked that she was prepped, aware of safety issues in a foreign country.
20th Sept: At around 11:30AM, our daughter left for town saying she was going to the post office and then going shopping, but she has not returned since that day.
22nd Sept: At around 10:30PM, we received a phone call from her roommate saying that she had not returned for 3 days and whether there had been any contact with her home. Having been informed of this, we immediately requested for a search by the police.
23rd Sept: We made a request for search to the Japanese consul in Cairns, Australia. The Cairns police (a Japanese interpreter hired by the police, whom we will call Mr. Y) made a phone call and we were made aware of the circumstances surrounding the case.
24th Sept: Letters from our daughter to her friends and mother arrived.
25th Sept: Parents arrived in Cairns, Australia for the search.
26th Sept: We had a meeting with police force about the search and made contact with the Australian government, the Japanese consul and the press.
30th Sept: We asked for citizens' help in a press conference requesting information from the citizens.
3rd Oct: We had a meeting with the Federal Government's Minister for Tourism and Sports, Andrew Thompson and the Mayor of Cairns, Tom Pine, who told us that Australia and Japan are friendly nations and since Cairns, a city of tourism, has a lot of Japanese tourists, they would do their best to make an effort to solve the case.
5th Oct: At around 4PM, it was reported to us that a woman's body had been found and that it seemed to be of oriental origin.
6th Oct: Daughter's two siblings arrived in Cairns for the search.
6th Oct: After the body was discovered, identification specialist arrived from Brisbane and the police authorities carried out crime identification.
7th Oct: We received the results of the identification. The necklace she was wearing confirmed that it was our daughter. We strongly demanded that we be allowed to see her body for confirmation, but we were denied this by the police. (This was in consideration of the fact that the body was extremely decayed)
8th Oct: The Japanese consul introduced us to an undertaker and cremation was performed in the afternoon.
11th Oct: We returned home. About 300 citizens including the mayor saw our daughter off at the Cairns airport.
11th Oct: We rented a press conference room at our own expense and made contact with the press.
17th Oct: We performed a funeral service.
27th~28th Jan: A public hearing on the arrested criminal was held and the decision to put the suspect on trial as a murderer.
We were not contacted by the local authorities on holding the public hearing, but contacted thus by the local interpreter, Mr. Y. We sent a letter of attorney to Mr. Y, who attended the hearing on our behalf and gave us a report on the contents.
Early in August: Mr. Y asked us to visit Australia to name the memorial garden constructed in memory of daughter. Service was to be held on 20th September.
6 of us, 4 from the family and daughter's 2 child-days friends planned to visit Australia.
24th Aug: Mr. Y informed us that the trial would be held for 2 weeks from 14th September. There was no contact made by local authorities.
14th Sept: The trial was held from 14th Sept to 23rd at Cairns high court and we attend all 10 days helped by Mr. Y's interpretation. We received help in attending the trial from the members of the local support group (QHVSG).
Despite being a trial of a minor, it was exceptionally made open to the public.
20th Sept: Nine of daughter's diving partners planned a memorial tour and visited Australia. Since it was during the trial, we held a private unveiling ceremony of our daughter's memorial site.
23rd Sept: After completing the testimonies of about 70 witnesses, the public prosecutor, the defence attorney and the presiding judge made final speech and the court was closed for the jury to deliberate. 40 minutes later, a ruling of guilty was made.
We attended a press conference in the evening to state our opinion.
25th Sept: We held public unveiling ceremony of daughter's memorial site. The mayor of Cairns, parties concerned and citizens, adding up to about 150 people attended the service.
9th Nov: Trial to assess the case was held in Cairns high court and Mr. Y attended it for us. The result of the ruling was "life imprisonment". (Juvenile Law was applied and discharge from prison would be possible after 15 years.)
25th Jan: Mr. Y told us that the defendant appealed against the assessment of the case.
22nd June: Mr. Y told us that the appeal was rejected. We pressed the Japanese consul to check the information and we were told of the rejection.
19th Sept: Four of us from the family visited Cairns for the second memorial service of daughter's death.
24th Sept: We visited the police authorities to say that the promised return of the daughter's possessions were yet to be performed and they gave part of the possession back.
24th Sept: We were introduced to the state government's public facility, victim and criminal mediation organisation by QHSVG. We had an interview with them in order to check whether the criminal intended to apologise. Mr. Y interpreted for us.
1st Nov: The mediator informed Mr. Y that the criminal and his parents had no intention to apologise.
18th~25th Sept: We visited Australia for the memorial service. It is our intention to visit the memorial site every year so that we may perform memorial service.
24th Sept: We attend the victim memorial service held by QHVSG.
II. Subjects imposed on us, the parents, after the incident
This criminal case, as stated earlier in the outline, is so brutal and foul that it cannot be forgiven. The judicial trial has finished, the case has been assessed and the sentence of life imprisonment has been ruled, but neither the criminal, nor his parents, nor the Australian government have expressed intention to apologise or compensate for damages. Because of this, we feel that this case has not yet been settled.
We want to recompense for the remorse of our daughter who was stopped in middle of striving for her dream and we do not want her death to be meaningless. This is why we continue to appeal to the public about the subjects we will mention in the next section. This is the task that we are left to do.
1.) Human rights of victims of crime
Under current law, human rights of victims are in state of being ignored and are not treated equally. In Japan, there is a movement to legislate the basic laws of victims of crime, but we believe that there is a need to realise the legislation quickly.
After having been treated the same in Australia, we as victims of crime would like to strongly express sorrow over how we were treated. If we were to give a specific example, trial was held from 14th to 23rd September 1998, but we were not informed of this from the authorities concerned. The victims' right to knowledge was ignored. We only learned of the trial and were able to attend when, Mr. Y, who was a local resident, let us knew what was happening. Our child was murdered without provocation and as her parents we should have the right to know where and when the trial would be held. This right was only realised by a local citizen's goodwill.
The criminal was treated with all honours of human rights with tax money spent on the trial and rehabilitation, but on the other hand, the victim and her family was completely ignored in respect of human rights and financial aid.
After the incident, we appealed for equal treatment on the spot, but the human rights of a victim is a basic aspect of the issues that need to be considered and we will continue to appeal for equal and fair treatment leading to the need for enactment of a basic law, similar to one in Japan, which defends the rights of victims of crime.
2.) Apology and compensation for the crime
After the incident, with the judicial trial against the criminal completed by sentence of lifetime imprisonment, neither the criminal, nor his parents, nor the Australian government are yet to express intention to apologise or compensate for damages.
We believe that it was fundamental for someone who committed a crime to apologise and pay compensation to the victim in spirit of recompense for the inhuman act that has been committed.
It is our intent to continue to appeal to the criminal and his parents the meaning of apology, compensation and living as human being. As for the Australian government, which has continued to claim in the light of Australia and Japan being friendly nations and importance of Japanese tourists in development of Cairns, that they would strive to do everything they can, but have failed to deliver anything, that they ought to make an action to show their sincerity.
Our daughter went to Cairns hoping to get diving instructor's license, guide Japanese divers around the Great Barrier Reef and become a go-between for Japan and Australia.
We will continue our appeal and we receive a sincere intent of apology and compensation.
3.) Rehabilitation after application of minor law
We believe that the minor law was applied for the future of the boy who committed crime, so that he may rehabilitate and go back to society.
The crime that the boy committed took a person's life and future. It took away the happiness of the victim's family. The victim's mental and financial damage is beyond imagination and this murder case could not be forgiven.
If a society was to rehabilitate the boy who committed a crime and let him go back to society, then they should let the victim know of the effort that is put in the rehabilitation and its contents.
Thus the rehabilitation should let the boy, who committed a murder, learn the preciousness of life and the consequences of the crime which lead to destruction of a normal life and understand the mental and financial burden. The weight of the crime needs to be recognised and reflected, so that atonement is possible.
We have appealed for apology and compensation for the crime that was committed, but we have not been shown any intention of action. This means that the administration in charge of the rehabilitation has no intention to actually rehabilitate the boy and the boy, who has no intention to apologise or compensate, has made no effort to rehabilitate.
For the rehabilitation of this boy, the society surrounding the boy and the Australian government should make their point of view clear. This means that the rehabilitation program and outline of the rehabilitation should be made public and the responsibility of the rehabilitation must exist. If the boy intends to rehabilitate, then he needs to be taught that apology to the victim and the victim's family is a prerequisite.
It is our intent to continue appealing about application of minor law in respect of the weight of crime and the need of proper administrative stance for rehabilitation.
4.) Relief measures for victims of crime abroad
Victims of crime abroad need to deal with extra mental and financial burden on top of the actual shock of the incident. There are mental and financial burdens in the form of language barrier, cultural barrier, difference of legal system, travel costs and hotel expenses. There is a huge difference from what needs to be dealt with in domestic incident.
We strongly demanded compensation from the Australian government for the costs of interpretation, travel and hotel, but we only obtained part of the travel costs.
In the year after the incident, judicial trial took place and as we mentioned earlier, we hurried to Cairns as soon as our interpreter, Mr. Y, informed us of the trial and we were able to attend. In attending, we needed a specialised interpreter and Mr. Y worked with us for 10 days during the trial. As a high-ranking Australian official promised to do his best for us, we expected the Australian government to pay the costs. However not a cent was paid.
For the victims of crime abroad, there needs to be support in interpretation to make up for the language barrier, support in travel and hotel costs involving the criminal investigation and trial and continued flow of information about the case to the victims even after returning home. These are minimal relief measures.
We will continue to appeal in Japan for legislation of relief measures to victims of crimes abroad and legislation of relief measures for foreigners who became victims of crimes to the Australian government and continued information service to the Australian embassy in Japan.
5.) Employment of working holiday visas
Working holiday is a very good system for fostering young people and let them learn about abroad. However, when the young Japanese apply the working holiday system and travel abroad, I wonder how many of them recognise and understand the language and the culture of the country they visit.
I allowed my daughter to visit Australia with understanding that Australia was a safe and secure country.
Right after the incident, the Australian federal government minister of tourism visited us and said to us that taking into account that "Australia and Japan are friendly nations" and "the wish to develop Cairns with increased Japanese tourism", they would do their best to settle this incident. However to this day, the criminal, his parents and the Australian government how made no apology or compensation to us the victims.
The young people need to fully recognise the fear of getting involved in crime or accident abroad. Because of cultural differences, what may be the common sense in Japan often is not recognised in other countries.
For the young people with future to spend the time meaningfully abroad without getting involved in crime or accidents, the working holiday system needs to be reviewed. An that is not limited to measure for self-defence, but also including terms for receiving visa, secure measure for safe immigration, strengthening the reparation system for crimes that the responsibility lies with the receiving country.
We would like to appeal to young people making use of working holiday system and visiting abroad to fully recognise and understand the visiting country's language and cultural difference, before they visit.
10th February 2001
Translation by Ryosaku Nakamura