By Tony Wall
Police hunting the killer of Japanese tourist Kayo Matsuzawa have focused on a Russian tourist who left the country the day after her body was found.
The naked body of Miss Matsuzawa, aged 29, was found locked inside a fire-alarm cupboard off a stairwell in the Centrecourt building in Queen St, central Auckland, last September.
She had arrived in Auckland about 10 days earlier and it is believed she was killed within a day or two.
Inquiries by the New Zealand Herald have revealed that police have concentrated on a small number of men in New Zealand and overseas.
A Russian man who was staying at the Queen St Backpackers hostel at the same time as Miss Matsuzawa has come in for particularly close scrutiny.
But it appears inquiries have reached a dead end. Police are preparing to file
the case as unsolved.
The head of the inquiry, Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Baker, refused to comment on whether police had been able to track down the Russian.
"There will be no comment at all in relation to that ... Those are operational matters and they will remain within the inquiry team."
But he confirmed that some of the suspects in the case were now overseas, and that police agencies in Asia and Europe had been asked to help to find them.
The Interpol office in Wellington confirmed yesterday that it had assisted with the inquiries.
The manager of the backpackers hostel, Ken Ho, said police had spent a lot of time investigating one of his guests, a middle-aged Russian who was staying at the hostel last September.
He considered the man, who was "big and strong," to be "dodgy" because he hung around the hostel all day.
He said the day after Miss Matsuzawa's body was found, the man left the country. Mr Ho understood he was heading to Australia.
Mr Ho said police seemed most interested in the Russian, although they asked questions about two other apparent suspects, both New Zealanders. One had been kicked out of the hostel for stealing food.
Inquiries by the Herald have found that students from Russia and the Ukraine were among those studying at a language school just a stairwell away from where Miss Matsuzawa's body was found.
The managing director of the school, Yvonne Johnson, has closed the school and is teaching English in Kuwait.
A business associate, Bill Aylward, said the murder inquiry had been bad for the business and was a factor in its closure.
"The police were working one of her students over fairly heavily and the constant interruptions while police questioned the students were highly disruptive."
The district manager of Auckland police, Superintendent Howard Broad, said he was happy with the way the inquiry was handled. He said it had been "dealt a short hand" from the start because many witnesses had left the country by the time the body was found.
By Tony Wall