FOUR years ago today, Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya’s body was found in Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on Ash Wednesday. Police are no closer to solving the case than they were in 2016.
A homeless man stumbled upon the 30-year-old among a pile of leaves and debris. She had on a Carnival costume.
The police Cold Case Unit is still investigating her death. "It is moving a pace," said a homicide detective.
Police believe Nagakiya was killed sometime between Carnival Tuesday (February 8) and Ash Wednesday (February 9) in 2016. She was last seen alive on Carnival Tuesday around 6.15 pm walking with a man near Picton Court, Newtown. The man and two women were questioned but were released without charge. An autopsy concluded she was strangled.
Her killer was left-handed and missing four to six front teeth, Russian forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov revealed in public lecture at UWI, St Augustine in 2017.
He lamented the length of time it took for her body to be taken to the Forensic Science Centre in St James saying "it was frozen" when he began the autopsy. He could not determine the time of death. However, he was able to build a profile of her killer referring to marks of violence on her neck from which he determined her attacker was left-handed. Bite marks on her cheeks showed that the attacker was missing a few front teeth. Ten suspects were cleared based on this information, said Alexandrov, who now works abroad.
Nagakiya's unsolved murder is just one of many unsolved murders women in TT which must not be ignored, Stephanie Leitch, founding director of Womantra, said when asked to reflect on the case.
“Not being able to bring Asami’s killer to justice is not unlike the lack of response or ability of the TTPS to bring to justice any of the perpetrators who have murdered women throughout these years,” Leitch said.
Womantra was at the forefront of a protest over the Port of Spain mayor, Raymond Tim Kee, who tried to link Nagakiya's death to Carnival culture, in comments about vulgarity and women's costumes.
“You have to let your imagination roll a bit and figure out was there any evidence of resistance or did alcohol control?” he told reporters at a press conference in 2016.
“It’s a matter of, if she was still in her costume – I think that’s what I heard – let your imagination roll,” he said.
Outraged Womantra and may critics called for Tim Kee's resignation which led him to step down. Tim Kee died last year.
Today, Womantra now has an online petition demanding that Government respond to gender-based violence. The petition, which can be found on change.org, had a target of 1,500 signatures – as of Saturday it had 1,215.
The six demands they have are: increased effectiveness, accountability and transparency of the State; sufficient financial and organisational support and resources; amending the Domestic Violence Act; establish a social fund to support NGOs; create a multi-stakeholder co-ordination mechanism to work together to end gender based violence and investing in social reformation programs to teach non-violent communication.
On January 21, the Gender-Based Violence Unit was launched. The unit will be manned by police specially trained to handle reports of domestic violence and similar acts of abuse and criminality.
This week, Nagakiya's name surfaced in Parliament when Opposition Senator Saddam Hosein spoke of her as one of the more than 2,000 people murdered in the past four years. He was piloting a private members' motion on Government's failure to deal with crime in the Senate on Tuesday.
"I speak on behalf of the victims of crime. The families of the thousands of citizens who have been brutally murdered," he said in a roll call of slain women, men and children.
He referred to Nagakiya as he highlighted tourists were also being attacked and murdered.
Nagakiya has been hailed a talented musician and pannist, embracing TT's culture which she shared with other musicians in Japan.
She played with several steelbands, where Japanese players could be seen ably executing their skills on the pan alongside experienced local players.
In a 2018 interview, Phase II Pan Groove arranger Len "Boogsie" Sharpe said Government should officially apologise to the people of Japan.
“No one has stood up yet and apologised to the Japanese people for what happened. They are such beautiful people...kind and humble,” he said. “Maybe the pan body or the Ministry of Culture should send an apology letter to them for what happened here..” Pan Trinbago dedicated a fund-raising concert to Nagakiya.