On September 22nd 1998, a technician found the decomposing body of a young Asian woman in the alarm cupboard of a building in downtown Auckland. Visiting from Japan, Kayo Matsuzawa, aged 29, came to New Zealand to fulfill a dream of travel and adventure. Having worked in Christchurch for a few months, Kayo flew to Auckland planning to spend a few days exploring. Arriving on the 11th September 1998, it is believed she may only have been in Auckland for just a few hours before meeting her killer.
I began my trip by catching a bus to Auckland’s city centre. These days downtown Auckland appears so different from the late 90s, I was unable to tell from the old CCTV footage images what area around lower Queen Street Kayo had gotten off her bus, so I just took a walk around the general vicinity to take a few photos.
On her arrival in Auckland, Kayo had checked into the Queen Street Backpackers, Room 25, 2nd floor. Trying to gain access to the floor I discovered NZ backpackers seem to have now caught up with most of the modern hostel world and access to the dormitory halls is by key card only. Feeling a bit silly to ask reception if I could have a look as I’d just walked past without asking I decided to leave it.
Walking down Queen Street, as someone whose lived in Auckland for much of my life, it can be a bit hard to get how anyone could feel excited by downtown Auckland, but I could still get a feel of the freedom and excitement Kayo probably felt as a tourist.
Heading down to the Centrecourt building, it was stuffy inside, almost to the point of suffocating, and I didn’t stay long. At the time of Kayo Matsuzawa’s murder, Centrecourt was attached to the BNZ shopping centre which now sits empty. It was inside an alarm cupboard in the stairwell linking these two buildings that Kayo Matsuzawa’s naked body was found.
A few theories I’ve had about Kayo Matsuzawa’s murder are the following. Did Kayo enter the stairwell via the fire escape door by accident, got trapped (the door couldn’t be opened from inside) and meet her killer there? Was she snatched walking past Mills Lane and dragged into the building’s back entrance by someone with access? Perhaps Kayo meet her killer in the CBD, was murdered elsewhere and her body then taken to the building? To help protect the investigation, police remain rightfully tight lipped about many of the details regarding Kayo’s body when found.
Heading over to Mills Lane behind the Centrecourt and former BNZ tower (more of a back alleyway than an actual lane) the area had a quiet feel to it. A man in his late 40s, perhaps 50s came outside to smoke a cigarette. Finished photo taking I hurried off.
To gain entry to the buildings via the back entrance on Mills Lane the killer would have needed a swipe card. When checked, swipe card entries were found to have been erased for the night of 11th September 1998 and computer records for the alarm were also deleted from the buildings computers for that same night. The cupboard were Kayo’s body was found had a broken lock which could be opened with a screwdriver and to get to the cupboard the person would have probably needed good knowledge of the building not to have triggered an alarm. Bryan Bruce, crime writer and documentary maker, believes the killer probably didn’t have a car as they hid Kayo’s body in the city instead of dumping her in the bush or sea. Kayo was tiny, just 4.11 inches tall and weighing 50 kgs, she would have been small enough to have been taken into the building via a large suitcase. In my opinion access to a swipe card and computer records point strongly towards the killer working in the building, but there are other possibilities. The killer may have known someone who worked there and could have manipulated or stolen the swipe card and details to access the computer records from them.
Bryan Bruce has taken a strong interest in the case and in his documentary about the murder, traveled to Japan to meet Kayo Matsuzawa’s family and friends. Kayo’s family and friends described her as an open and friendly young woman, who was very trusting of people. What also strikes me about Kayo’s vulnerability was her petite size, Asian women can also be stereotyped as submissive and this combined with the fact she was a tourist with English as her second language, could have made her attractive to a certain type of predatory man for the wrong reasons.
Kayo’s passport and a few other personal items of hers, were found in a rubbish bin on the corner of Mills Lane and Albert Street approximately five days after her murder by a rubbish collector who handed them into police after her body was found. A gold ring with a pink stone Kayo wore reportedly wasn’t found with these items nor on her body. The area where the rubbish bin on the corner of Mills Lane and Albert St was located, is currently covered by roadworks.
Of all the victims I’ve written up about for this blog, I feel the most familiarity with Kayo. I can relate to her adventurous streak. I too, like Kayo did, love to travel, and have often worked long hours at menial jobs to save for traveling. As a female traveling alone, there’s been points I’ve felt afraid, but I’ve always been lucky enough to have talked my way out of potentially dangerous situations (at least when traveling). Unfortunately for Kayo that was not the case.
The killer of Kayo Matsuzawa has not been caught to date. It strikes me sitting in the Auckland Public library writing this, the killer could even be in this very building right now, even sitting across from me. I hope one day they are caught. For Kayo’s sake, and for those who loved her.
Sources of information:
RedSkyTelevision [Bryan Bruce] (2011, May 19th) The Investigator – Who Killed Kayo – Part One, Two and Three. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOkf5bvKE30.