Chinese man 'may have clue' to Japan supermarket murders almost 20 years ago

TOKYO (AFP) - Nearly 20 years after the killing of three Tokyo supermarket workers shocked Japan, police hope the extradition of a 43-year-old Chinese man from Canada will shed some light on the unsolved case, reports said on Sunday.

The unnamed Chinese man, who has settled in Canada since 2006 when he landed there as a refugee, lived in Japan in 1995 and may know the killer, the Jiji Press news agency and other media reported quoting police sources.

One of his Japanese acquaintances, a mobster executed in China in 2010 for drug trafficking, told Japanese police in 2009 that the Chinese man "may know something about the culprit" as he knew about the murders in great detail, the reports said.

The press office of the Metropolitan Police Department could not confirm the reports.

In July 1995, three female workers were shot point-blank in the head and died in the office of a supermarket at night in a Tokyo suburb.

The killer got away without stealing money and jewellery from the victims or the locked safe in the office, a fact which has puzzled police and given rise to speculation that the shooting was motivated by a personal grudge.

The victims - a 47-year-old woman and two high school girls, aged 16 and 17 - were all part-time workers.

The case shocked Japan where possession of firearms is tightly controlled despite sporadic gangland shooting incidents.

After tracking down the Chinese man, a native of Fujian province, Tokyo police demanded in 2010 that Canadian authorities extradite him for a relatively minor case.

He allegedly left Japan in 2002 on a passport bearing the identity of a Japanese man. He later obtained permanent residency in Canada.

In September last year, a lower court in Canada approved his extradition to Japan and an appeal court upheld the decision in September this year, the reports said.

His lawyer told Jiji Press that he wanted the Japanese side not to detain and prosecute him on charges other than a violation of the passport control law, and not to hand him over to China.

Tokyo police plan to arrest him on false passport charges and question him over the murders as well, the reports said.

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