Body of murdered Japanese student found in suitcase, Vancouver trial hears

Body of murdered Japanese student found in suitcase, Vancouver trial hears
Suspect charged with murder in Japanese students death pleads not guilty
Disturbing new details on the murder of Japanese exchange student Natsumi Kogawa are coming to light as her alleged killers trial gets underway in Vancouver.

Kogawa was found dead on the grounds of the Gabriola House mansion in September 2016, about two weeks after she was reported missing.

On Monday, the first day of trial for accused killer William Victor Schneider, prosecutors told the court that Kogawas naked body was discovered in a black suitcase that had been left in a hedge on the West End property.

The Crown also revealed in its opening statement that authorities were never able to determine a cause of death. Kogawas body was decomposing, but not dismembered, and there was no evidence of major injuries.

The jurors heard that toxicology tests showed Kogawa had two prescription sedatives in her system – zopiclone and lorazepam – but that the tests were unable to determine precise levels because of her state of decomposition.

"John Horgan and the NDP have broken their promise to give British Columbians a simple yes or no choice. They've stacked the deck with a complicated, confusing referendum that could throw our province into chaos, and strictly limited how much information can be shared with voters," he said.

Schneider is charged with second-degree murder and interfering with human remains, and the 51-year-old pleaded not-guilty to both counts Monday morning.

It says the RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada, along with three other suspected prescriptions from Marigold, which patients had returned to local pharmacies, and that they all tested positive for the presence of THC, the main psychoactive part of marijuana.

Kogawas mother, Emiko Kogawa, attended the first day of trial, and broke out in tears when the accused walked into court. Prosecutors later warned her through an interpreter that she might find the content of their opening remarks disturbing.

Jurors were shown a surveillance image of Schneider and Kogawa together at Harbour Centre Mall on Sept. 8 – one of the last known images taken of the victim while she was alive – and told it played a crucial role in locating her body.

“Climb on to one of the red vinyl stools drilled into the floor by the long formica bar or bag a high-walled wooden booth to enjoy a plate of omelette, pork chops or fried chicken with your filter coffee or Ovaltine shake – prepared on a vintage machine.”

Authorities released the image to the public while they were still hoping to find Kogawa alive. Prosecutors said the accuseds niece recognized his face and told her father, Schneiders brother, who went to visit him in Vernon.

Schneider was allegedly suicidal and told his brother where police could find Kogawas body, according to the Crown. Officers in Vancouver located the missing students remains with help from a police dog on Sept. 28, and Mounties in Vernon arrested Schneider the same day.

Kogawa was in B.C. to study English at the time of her murder. Prosecutors said she had made friends and enjoyed an active social life, sometimes camping and going to parties.  

First witness: Sgt Hoivik @BurnabyRCMP officer, who was the lead detective on Kogawas missing person file. He is now testifying that he went to Nicola & Davie, and suitcase was found by @VPDCanine. He opened it and says he saw foot & leg inside.

Japanese exchange student Natsumi Kogawa and William Victor Schneider are seen together at Harbour Centre Mall on Sept. 6, 2016. (Handout)

Farsi Dar B.C. campaign founding member Amir Bajehkian says he believes those numbers don't reflect all Persian speakers and census data shows Farsi is spoken more frequently in B.C. than French, German, Italian, Spanish or Japanese.

Police havent recommended charges, and wouldnt say if thats a possibility as the case moves forward. 2

But the Crown laid out the case against him that will include evidence from Warren Schneider about his brother’s relationship with Kogawa, CCTV footage of William from the homeless men’s shelter he lived in in August and September 2016, testimony from the shelter staff of his relationship with a Japanese woman, her credit-card statement showing purchases of vodka and snacks the last day she was seen, and a police interview with William in which he discussed her death and gestured holding his nose.

A man charged with second-degree murder and indignity to a human body in connection with the death of a Japanese student in Vancouver has pleaded not guilty.

Two weeks after she was reported missing by friends — and police publicly released a photo showing him and Kogawa walking side-by-side at Harbour Centre mall with a tent in a black bag — Schneider told his brother, Warren Schneider, that her body was in a suitcase at a construction site at Nicola and Davie streets, Crown prosecutor Geordie Proulx said in his opening statement in B.C. Supreme Court.

Balding and wearing a collared shirt, William Victor Schneider quietly made his pleas Monday morning in front of a jury in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Warren is also expected to tell the trial William had met Kogawa three times. The day they last met they were on their way to Stanley Park to have sex in the tent, but they didn’t get that far, instead having a few drinks and taking some medication, said Proulx. William then told Warren that Kogawa had a prior engagement and had to leave, he said.

Schneider, 51, was arrested in Vernon, B.C., on Sept. 28, 2016 — the same day police found the body of Natsumi Kogawa in a mansion in Vancouver's West End.

Schneider was linked to the crime when Warren’s daughter recognized her uncle in the police photo on Sept. 27, 2016, of Kogawa and Schneider together. Warren travelled to Vernon from his Kelowna home, and the two drank together in a park over the next day and night. William bought some heroin and said he was going to kill himself by overdosing.

Kogawa, 30, had been missing for two weeks. A police dog found her body inside a suitcase leaning on some shrubs outside Gabriola Mansion, a historic building on Davie Street.

After the Schneider's not-guilty plea, prosecutor Geordie Proulx explained the case he planned to present against the suspect during the trial.

A man charged with the murder of a Japanese student whose decomposed body was found in a suitcase near the old Macaroni Grill in Vancouver’s West End two years ago told his wife in Japan by phone, “I did it,” or “I killed her,” Crown told the opening day of his trial on Sept 24.

Friends last heard from Kogawa on Sept. 8. Proulx said she'd planned to meet a friend to talk about a potential job at a restaurant, but never showed up.

Police tracked her movements and found surveillance video of Kogawa with a man, later identified as Schneider, walking through Vancouver's Harbour Centre Mall.

As Proulx recounted the last known details of Kogawa’s life, Schneider, his thinning hair neatly trimmed and wearing a grey-and-white-striped collared shirt, sat quietly in the prisoner’s dock, his back to Kogawa’s mother, a few metres away in the public gallery.

A still photo from the footage was released to the media on Sept. 27. Proulx said Schneider's brother recognized him on the tape and phoned police. 

Hostel staff will be called to testify Schneider had told them he was excited about meeting a Japanese woman in late August or early September and that they had gone hiking and were going camping, but then saying the relationship wasn’t going to work out.

The prosecutor said Schneider had been living in a Vancouver hostel for 51 days around the time of his arrest and had spoken to hostel staff about meeting a Japanese woman before suddenly leaving on Sept. 21, 2016.

William Schneider, 51, pleaded not guilty Monday before a judge and jury to second-degree murder in the death of Natsumi Kogawa, 30. He also pleaded not guilty to the second charge of interfering with human remains.

The Crown said after his arrest Schneider told police where to find the suitcase containing Kogawa's body.

Proulx told court police were unable to find the tent, Kogawa’s clothing, cellphone or any belongings, nor did they find any physical evidence linking Schneider to where the body was found.

Court heard an autopsy revealed no obvious trauma, though her liver showed signs of an undetermined quantity of sedative drugs zopiclone and lorazepam.  

And the trial will also show CCTV of Schneider and Kogawa walking together on Hastings Street toward Stanley Park as far west as Thurlow Street, just before 2 p.m. on Sept. 8, 2016.

Kogawa didn't have a prescription for either drug, but Proulx said Schneider had past prescriptions for lorazepam.

The prosecutor said forensic experts found decomposition was too advanced to determine the exact cause of Kogawa's death.

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