The year of the dog in Japan has ended with one of the most bizarre murder cases in memory. A renowned breeder of exotic imported dogs has admitted dismembering the corpse of a customer who complained after paying 11m yen (£70,000) for a pair of Rhodesian ridgebacks - only for one to run away.
Japanese police suspect Gen Sekine, 53, his common-law wife Hiroko Kasama, 37, and business associate Nagayuki Yamazaki, 38, of having conspired to poison Akio Kawasaki, and being involved in the disappearance of six other buyers in the past two years.
Sekine apparently persuaded gullible Japanese to part with millions of yen for exotic dogs, promising them that they could make money by selling the litters. He also offered to buy back the litters, but never did, according to a group of customers who last year formed a victims' group to press for damages..
Sekine is well known in Japan. He introduced the Alaskan malamute, a strongly- built Eskimo-sled dog, to the country and aggressively promoted the breed: it is now the 19th most popular breed.
Sekine allegedly had close ties to yakuza gangsters.
One source in the dog-breeding world told the Yomiuri newspaper: "I recognised Sekine as a capable breeder, but he had always shadowy ties to organised-crime syndicates."
Akio Kawasaki, 39, a Saitama company executive, went missing on the night of 20 April 1993, but it is not known how he came to meet his death.
Japanese television has reported that Sekine and Yamazaki had bragged to acquaintances that Kawasaki had been poisoned with "sleeping pills" placed in a "tonic drink".
Sekine has only admitted to police that he dismembered the body with a kitchen knife at Yamazaki's home. The corpse was then taken by the three defendants to one of Sekine's dog- training grounds, in a wooded area of neighbouring Gunma prefecture, where they burnt it and scattered the remains in nearby mountains.
The day after the murder, Kawasaki's car was driven by Yamazaki and Kazama to a parking garage next to Tokyo Station to make it appear he had vanished in Tokyo. They then returned to help dispose of the body.
Kawasaki had so trusted Sekine's sales pitch for the Rhodesian ridgebacks that he emptied a savings account, cashed a life insurance policy, sold his car and borrowed money from his mother.
Hopes of profiting from his investment were soon dashed when the bitch ran away from his house. Kawasaki demanded that Sekine repay back the money for the dog that remained.
The breeder stalled, but telephoned Kawasaki to say he would return (£41,400). Five days later Kawasaki disappeared.
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