The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia on October 11, 1997 · Page 37
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The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia · Page 37

Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia
Issue Date:
Saturday, October 11, 1997
Page 37
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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1997 News Review 37 The young Japanese tourist was prepared for the holiday of a lifetime. A young Queensland drifter had other ideas. GREG ROBERTS reports on a murder that has devastated a community built on tourism. 3 OR Michiko Oku- I yama, this was to be ""l the holiday of a J lifetime, visiting 1 Cairns and the J Great Barrier Reef "God's own country", as 'the telephone recording for the local tourism bureau tells it The 22-year-old had saved for what . was to be a 1 2-month working holiday. Michiko's great love was diving. A swimming instructor and pool attendant in the Japanese port city of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, she had a master's certificate in diving, wanted to qualify as an instructor and could think of no better place to do so than on the Great Barrier Reef. But Michiko did not get to see the reef. Within 10 days of arriving in Cairns she was bashed to death just two blocks from the holiday apartment her parents had rented for her in the Paradise Villas complex. On September 20, Michiko caught a bus from the apartment to the city centre. She was last seen just before midday on the THE MICHIKO MURDER Teach special people The widest ranre of courses in Special Education is offered at UTS Bachelor of Education in Special Education (4 years full time) for school leavers and other people who do not have a teaching qualification. (Apply through UAC) Other one year full-time or two years part-time courses are designed for people with a teaching qualification. Bachelor of Education in Special Education (4th Year) Graduate Diploma in Special Education Master of Education (Special Education specialisation) (Apply through UTS) For tbe past three years all teachers graduating from our special education courses have been offered positions in schools. Applications close 31 October 1997. Please send me information on courses ticked. Name: Address: Post Code: Post to: Teacher Education Information Office, P.O. Box 222, UTS Kuring-gai, Lindfield 2070, Fax 9514 5556, or email: Maureen.Juckesuts UITI Si Working for your The Special Edition Golf Cabriolet comes with leather and CD player. With built-in roll bar, twin airbags and ABS, it's always been safe, now it's even See your nearest Volkswagen dealer, phone 1 800 060 936 Or visit 'Offer applies to Manual Golf Cabriolet ordered, acquired and registered between 1.9.97 and llYsru1 nl I 1 JcsJU UUL esplanade, a popular locality with tourists. She had posted two letters and bought meat and vegetables at a Woolworths supermarket and is believed to have been on her way home when she met the 16-year-old youth who was this week charged with her murder. The youth and three teenage friends had been hanging out in a disused warehouse opposite the Cairns Civic Theatre near the city centre for several weeks. They sometimes stayed overnight in the building, whose walls were covered in graffiti and floors strewn with rubbish. The owners were negotiating a lease and had told the teenagers to stay away from the premises. The 16-year-old, who left school when he was 14, had been living in a caravan in a Cairns suburb and repairing a broken-down truck in a vacant lot near the warehouse. He was looking for full-time work, but recently failed to win a job as a television cameraman's assistant. The youth evidently craved attention. He had been inter- luture .... 8l 111 viewed recently by a local television station which ran a story on street safety. On the day Michiko disappeared, his photograph appeared in the Cairns Post ; he had collected a quantity of discarded syringe needles and was complaining about the risk they posed to the public. Most bizarrely, when police put a mannequin dressed as Michiko in a city shopping centre to jog the public's memory, the youth fronted up claiming to have seen her. Indeed he had, police allege. They found the groceries Michiko had purchased in an upstairs room in the warehouse. They believe she was persuaded to enter the building, but how remains a mystery because, like most Japanese, she spoke little English. Michiko was allegedly bludgeoned to death in a soundproof steel vault in the warehouse. The official cause of death, blood inhalation and facial fractures, indicated a savage attack. She died within four days of disappearing, but it is not yet clear if she was held against her will for a time before being killed. Further tests are being conducted. On Tuesday last week, police allege, the youth put Michiko's decomposing body in a wheelie bin and rolled it four kilometres to a swamp in the suburb of Manunda, opposite the Far North Queensland Institute of TAFE, where he buried it in a shallow grave just 100 metres from busy Wilkinson Street. Then, police believe, he dragged the bin back to the warehouse. The body was found last Saturday by residents who returned home after a week-long absence. The naked body was so decomposed it could not be determined if Michiko had been raped, but the button-up singlet and dark shorts she was wearing when she disappeared have not been recovered. The body was identified from an item of jewellery and dental records. CfXLX p NSW DEPARTMENT OF (ITU COMMUNITY SERVICES Linking families, individuals, communities. EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST Statewide Aboriginal Leaving Care and After Care Service The NSW Department of Community Services is seeking expressions of interest to provide a statewide brokerage service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and adults who are leaving substitute care or who have left care and are living independently in the community. The contract for this service will initially be for three years. The model for service provision allows for services to be provided for young people in the area in which they are located. It is intended that the service will consist of a part time worker and brokerage money to purchase services for young people on a statewide basis. Further information about the expression of interest and the information kit can be obtained from: Pauline Mackiewicz Service Practice and Standards Unit NSW Dept of Community Services 164-174 Liverpool Road AshfieldNSW2131. Ph (02) 9716 2824 Fax (02) 971 6 2775 Please note that the closing date for receipt of the expressions of interest is 12 noon on Friday 21st : November 1997. i X. Debris found under the body led police to suspect a wheelie bin was involved in its disposal. When that suspicion was publicised, police were inundated by calls from people who had seen the youth dragging the bin. Police found the bin in the warehouse, lying on its side near the vault door. No effort had been made to erase extensive blood stains inside the vault and on the floor outside. The youth entered no plea when he appeared before the Cairns Children's Court on Wednesday, and was remanded in custody to appear in December for a committal hearing. His parents were not in court; his mother is believed to live on the Sunshine Coast. The murder received such extensive publicity in Japan that Andrew Thomson, the new Federal Tourism Minister, who speaks fluent Japanese, appealed to the large contingent of Japanese journalists who had converged on Cairns not to overreact. But there has been no sign of panic. So Sekine, of the Nippon Television Network, said the story made an impact in Japan precisely because Australia is usually seen as a safe destination. "People are very interested X -.... : Nlc '. - -; '&l V --. -jr U V ' . : ;. ;' - ' 1 ."C . . ! ----- ; - - V V . - i . - v --,?. !-J . - t, . J PTWW t " 1 Vs oi p H$m4&rzzi v L ysm L w t I 3 r -v -fV'iW ll 4v :. The victim. Michiko Okuyama. Her murder stunned Cairns residents, many of whom have left flowers at the site where her body was dumped, above. in this because the young people especially are very familiar with Cairns and Australia and think of your country being very secure," Sekine said. Steve Noakes, the director of Tourism Tropical North Queensland, is confident that Japanese people "will accept - i .. Inset photograph by BRIAN CASSEY that these things can happen anywhere". "It could have been Sydney or Los Angeles or Tokyo. Unfortunately, this time it is Cairns," he said. Japanese tourists do not appear overly concerned. Isako Shimizu, who is touring with her Extra GM Card Rewards at R. M. Williams The GM Card now helps you drive your finances even further. Put $100 or more on your GM Card at any R. M. Williams store and you'll receive a $40 gift voucher Apply now call 131 200. The GM Card from Holden A great deal more rewarding 'Conditions apply Offer ends 3 1 st December 1997. GMMO0141 000 sexier. From just $49,990) you 31.12.97 or while stocks last. Excludes dealer and partner, told the Herald that she felt safe in Cairns. "People are very friendly here and you don't think those things can happen." Cairns residents, meanwhile, have demonstrated concern and sympathy for the Okuyama family. The local radio station this week has broadcast tributes and played Amazing Grace at frequent intervals, while the entrance to the track where her body was found has been strewn with flowers. A tourism operator, Steve Habjan, is raising money to pay the family's expenses. "We know money won't bring her back but it's the least we can do," he said. Michiko's father, Mikio, and mother, Toshie, who flew to Cairns immediately their daughter was reported missing, were joined by their two sons this week for a private funeral at the Cairns Crematorium. A local tour operator took the family out to the reef yesterday, where they scattered some of her ashes on the turquoise waters, honouring her wish to go there. A family friend, Yumi Smith, said the Okuyamas had been overwhelmed by hundreds of expressions of sympathy, donations and flowers. "They are very upset of course, but not bitter," she said. o (o0foPo won't be able to keep your hands off it. For details statutory charges. Vo I k SWQ g e fl Golf Cabriolet SE. How Japan reacted THE murder of Michiko Okuyama stirred fears in some sections of Japan's mass media . that Australians are becoming less tolerant towards Japanese tourists. Commercial television programs dwelt on what they claimed was Increased antagonism to Asian Immigration and Japanese staying in Australia on working holiday visas. The conservative mass circulation daily, the Sankel Shimbun, carried several news reports linking the murder to a wave of resentment in Caims towards Asian tourists and Japanese holiday-makers. The paper also wrote of the brutality of some Australian men who could kill a Japanese women with "a single blow" and who preyed on young, single Japanese tourists. The Sankel said that Caims was once known as a safe city but since a big influx of immigrants from Hong Kong and other States the city had become dangerous at night. "The local community also perceives that people staying In Australia on working holiday visas deprive Australian of jobs," tbe paper said. "Consequently, the local community has Increasingly come to harbour ill feelings towards Japanese, in particular against working holiday-makers," it added. In an earlier report, the paper quoted a young Japanese resident of Caims as saying that Japanese women were frequently approached by local men who boast that Japanese women make passive targets because they are compliant and easily led. Overall, the paper said, the murder of Okuyama has caused unease throughout the Japanese community in Australia. But it is daytime television that has offered the most sensational coverage. Some commentators even cast aspersions on the murdered girl's character. Others have linked her murder to the sentiments of the Independent Federal MP Pauline Hanson. Most of the views expressed are uninformed, based on supposition and hearsay. But the coverage caused some concern amongst Australian tourism officials who feared it might lead to an anti-Australia backlash. Although the murder has been given prominence in the print media, it has not been sensationalised. Major travel agencies contacted by the Herald reported no cancellations, while the Australian Tourism Commission has decided to push ahead with a $13 million campaign promoting Australia as a safe and friendly holiday destination. Australian and Japanese tourism officials are treating the murder as an Isolated event and neither Japan Travel Bureau nor the Kinkl Nippon Tourist expects the incident to affect group tour bookings. fl RUSSELL SKELTON Australian First Bank

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