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. The young woman’s name was Kayo Matsuzawa. Aged 29 years old, visiting from Japan, Kayo came to New Zealand to fulfill a dream of travel and adventure. After working in Christchurch, Kayo planned to spend a few days exploring Auckland, arriving on 11th September 1998. She is believed to have only been in Auckland for a few hours when she met her killer.
I began my trip catching a bus to Auckland’s city centre. These days downtown Auckland looks so different from the late 90’s, I was unable to tell from CCTV footage images what area of Queen Street Kayo got off her bus. So I just took a walk around the general vicinity of lower Queen Street and snapped some pictures.
On her arrival in Auckland, Kayo checked into the Queen Street Backpackers, Room 25 on the second floor. NZ hostels seem to have caught up with the rest of the modern world and access to the dormitory halls is now by key card only. Feeling a bit wary to ask reception if I could have a look, as I’d just walked past them without asking. I decided to leave it.
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 Auckland’s downtown area, but I could still get a feel of the freedom and excitement Kayo probably felt as a tourist.
Inside the Centrecourt building was stuffy and I didn’t stay long. At the time of Kayo Matsuzawa’s murder, Centrecourt was attached to the BNZ shopping centre, which is now empty. It was in 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. Could Kayo have entered the stairwell via the fire escape door by accident, got trapped (the door couldn’t be opened from inside) and met her killer there? Was she snatched while 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 taken to the building? To help protect the investigation, police remain rightfully tight lipped about much of the details regarding Kayo’s body when found.
I headed over to Mills Lane, located behind the buildings, it has a quiet feel to it, more of a back alleyway than a street. A man in his forties, perhaps fifties came outside and sat down to smoke a cigarette. Finished with my picture taking I hurried off.
To gain entry via the back entrance at 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. 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 and could be opened with a screwdriver, 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, only 4.11 inches tall and weighing 50 kgs, she would have been small enough to be 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 also other possibilities. The killer may have known someone who worked there, and either manipulated or stolen the swipe card and details to access 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 trusting of people. What strikes me about Kayo’s vulnerability, was her petite size, Asian women can also be stereotyped as submissive, 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 Mill Lane and Albert Street 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 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.