France charges Chilean over murder of Japanese ex-girlfriend

A video screengrab shows Zepeda (centre) being escorted by PDI agents on arrival at Santiago international aiport, on July 22, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BESANCON, FRANCE (AFP) - Chilean Nicolas Zepeda was charged with murder shortly after his extradition to France over the 2016 disappearance of his Japanese ex-girlfriend, prosecutors said on Friday (July 24).

Zepeda, 29, is the only suspect in the disappearance and alleged murder of Narumi Kurosaki, a case that has gripped Japan and France.

Kurosaki, then 21, vanished from her university in Besancon, near the French Alps, in December 2016 after having dinner with Zepeda.

France has been fighting for more than three years to have him extradited, and local prosecutor Etienne Manteaux confirmed he had been charged shortly after touching down in France.

A French judge later placed him in provisional detention.

By the time her disappearance was reported days later, Zepeda had returned to Chile.

French investigators believe he killed his ex in a jealous rage, though her body was never found.

He had been under house arrest in the seaside resort of Vina del Mar, 120km west of Santiago.

The handover was delayed and complicated by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent border closures.


Zepeda's extradition marks the third Chilean suspect sent to France, even though French authorities refuse to send former Chilean guerrilla Ricardo Palma Salamanca back to his homeland to stand trial for the 1991 murder of right-wing senator Jaime Guzman.

"Three years have passed since my beloved daughter disappeared... I pray that Nicolas will be tried in France, I would give my life for this," Kurosaki's mother Taeko wrote in a letter presented to the court in Chile.

"We will never forgive Nicolas, who took Narumi's life and her from the whole family."

According to investigators, Zepeda, the son of a wealthy Chilean family, met Kurosaki in Japan in 2014.

After a breakup, he went to Besancon at the beginning of December 2016 to see her again, and on the evening of Dec 4 the pair entered her residence together.

French prosecutors say several students heard "howls of terror" that night, but nobody called the police.

At the time of her disappearance, Kurosaki was in a new relationship, which prosecutors said angered Zepeda who threatened her in an online video he later removed.

Investigators claim that after arriving in France in 2016, Zepeda hired a car and drove to Besancon, stopping on the way to buy matches, flammable liquid and bleach at a supermarket.

Zepeda, who was questioned in April last year by a Chilean judge in the presence of French investigators, has denied involvement in Kurosaki's disappearance.

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