By TONY WALL
The presence of an alleged serial killer in Auckland in 1998 may throw new light on the baffling body-in-the-cupboard murder of a Japanese tourist.
Royal Navy Petty Officer Alan Michael Grimson, aged 40, who is charged with killing two young men in Portsmouth, England, was based at the Devonport Naval Base fire school as a trainer when 29-year-old Kayo Matsuzawa died.
She disappeared after checking into a backpackers' hostel in the heart of the Fort St red-light district on September 11, 1998, and her naked, decaying body was found 10 days later locked in a fire-alarm cupboard off a stairwell in the Centrecourt building in Queen St.
Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Baker, who is heading the investigation, said police had always assumed that the killer had access to Centrecourt and knew about the alarm cupboard.
The Herald has learned that the manager of the company that maintained the alarms knew Grimson.
Wormald manager Graham Osborne said he had met him a few times at the fire school, and found him to be a "normal sort of guy."
He believed his brief encounters with Grimson were coincidental and there was no reason for him to have known about the Centrecourt building.
But he said that although the cupboard in question was locked when the body was found, a key was not needed as the lock could easily be forced with a screwdriver.
Detective Senior Sergeant Baker has asked Interpol to obtain information on Grimson's movements from British police.
But he is remaining cautious because Grimson appears to have targeted young men, and there is nothing at this stage to link him to Miss Matsuzawa.
"I would have to say it is unlikely he is involved, but we certainly won't ignore it."
Police still have no idea how, where or when Miss Matsuzawa died.
One of the strongest suspects is a Russian man who stayed at the same hostel and suddenly left the country the day after her body was found. He has yet to be located.
Grimson is charged in Britain with murdering sailor Nicholas Wright, 18, who disappeared in December 1997, and barman Sion Jenkins, 20, who vanished about a year later.
Last month police dug up both their bodies in the Portsmouth area.
Investigators fear Grimson - who is thought to have trawled nightclubs looking for victims - may be responsible for several other deaths.
For four months between the two Portsmouth killings, he was based at the fire school at Devonport, training Navy personnel as part of an exchange programme.