By TONY WALL
Two years after the naked, decaying corpse of a Japanese tourist was found inside a cupboard in a downtown Auckland building, the officer in charge of the case remains hopeful that he will solve one of the city's most baffling murder mysteries.
Part of a wall of Detective Inspector Kevin Baker's office in the Auckland central police station is covered in pictures of Kayo Matsuzawa, and he admits that the case still haunts him.
"I live with it. I look at her every day on the wall. I can't get away from it," the frustrated detective told the Herald on the second anniversary of the murder.
In many ways, Miss Matsuzawa was a forgotten victim.
She did not have friends or family in Auckland, so there was no great outpouring of grief or anger after her death and the city simply got on with its business as police searched for clues in the downtown area.
Mr Baker admits that the lack of public interest frustrated him. "There are times when people should take more of an interest in what's going on. It could be your wife or daughter next. The public does have a role to play," he said.
He compares the relative lack of interest in the Matsuzawa case to the public fury that greeted the killing of journalist Kylie Jones in June.
Mr Baker said it was possible that, like Miss Jones, Miss Matsuzawa was abducted from the street by a sexual predator.
The 29-year-old arrived in Auckland from Christchurch, where she had been on a working holiday, on September 11, 1998, and checked into a backpackers hostel in Fort St, planning a short sightseeing visit.
She disappeared within hours of her arrival. Ten days later, her naked body was discovered inside a fire alarm cupboard in the Centrecourt building in Queen St. Some of her belongings were found in a rubbish bin in Albert St, but her clothing was never found.
Police were unable to determine how Miss Matsuzawa died, and the decaying state or her corpse meant it was not possible to say if she had been raped.
The Centrecourt building had an electronic security system - over 100 people had swipe cards - but lengthy examinations of the computer system could not isolate the killer.
Police began focusing on suspects who had access to Centrecourt, including Asian students at a language school, the neighbouring BNZ Tower and the hostel.
Mr Baker said police had still not spoken to a Russian man in his 50s who was staying at the backpackers hostel and earned the nickname "KGB" because of his prying.
The man was a wealthy eccentric who liked to trade in pieces of cheap jewellery while living a frugal, transient lifestyle around the world. He left for Australia a few days after Miss Matsuzawa's body was found. Police travelled to Queensland looking for him but he skipped the country, headed for Europe.
Mr Baker said the man triggered an airport alert in Turkey late last year and had made a "nuisance of himself," coming to the attention of the Russian consulate. It was not clear where the man was now. He has family in New Zealand and Australia.
Mr Baker said police considered the Russian more a potential witness than a suspect at this stage. The four or five people on the main suspect list lived in New Zealand.
Several homes and vehicles had been searched - one in the Bay of Plenty - and blood samples would be taken if necessary.
Mr Baker said it was possible that forensic evidence might eventually provide a breakthrough in the case.
Tiny items - which he would not identify - had been taken from the victim's body but had not been tested yet for fear of jeopardising chances of a DNA extraction in future with better technology.
Mr Baker appealed for anyone who had information on the case to contact police. The case is to be reviewed by a group of senior Auckland detectives next month.
By TONY WALL