Susukino Beheading: Why a Japanese Family is Standing Trial

Susukino Beheading: Why a Japanese Family is Standing Trial

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Tamura Runa
Picture: kazukiatuko / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Tamura Runa beheaded a man in a hotel in Sapporo - and her parents are now standing trial along with her. What happened?

Japan has less than 1,000 murders per year. That makes any murder here news. The case of 30-year-old Tamura Runa (田村瑠奈), however, has drawn particular interest. One reason is the grisly method of murder: beheading. The other is that Tamura’s parents, Osamu and Hiroko, are standing trial for aiding and abetting the crime.

We still don’t have the full picture of what happened or why. Here’s what we know so far – and how her parents are attempting to defend themselves.

Beheading in Sapporo’s red light district

Picture: まちゃー / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Susukino in Hokkaido’s city of Sapporo is to Sapporo what Kabukicho is to Tokyo. Known as one of Japan’s top three red-light districts alongside Kabukicho and Fukuoka’s Nakasu, Susukino is home to a large number of restaurants, host clubs, cabaret clubs, love hotels, and other establishments.

Last year, it was also the scene of a grisly murder.

On July 2nd, 2023, police were called to a hotel in Susukino. There, they found a body. They did not find any identification on the victim.

They also did not find a head.

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With little evidence at the scene, investigators thought they had a long haul ahead. After some searching, they found tapes of the victim entering with another unidentified individual. They also found footage of the same unidentified individual leaving the next day around 2am.

The person was of small stature and was carrying a large suitcase. Despite being July, they were bundled up in black clothes that hid their appearance, including a hat and a mask.

The stature of the suspected assailant caught police off-guard. The victim was a man. So they had assumed, given the power required to subdue and behead him, that the assailant was also a man.

Tamura Runa’s father helped her flee

Tamura Runa

Based on a missing persons report, police identified the victim as a 62-year-old man from the city of Eniwa. However, it would take another three weeks to find the clue that would lead them to the killer.

Since they couldn’t find any evidence of a woman in black taking a bus, riding a subway, or hailing a taxi, police concluded that someone had helped her flee. So they sifted through security camera footage and found footage of who they believed to be the assailant getting into a silver car.

At the same time, detectives listed up everyone the victim had a relationship with to produce a list of suspects.

One name stood out: Tamura Runa.

At that point, a perplexing and horrifying story unfolded.

Police went to the Tamura home, where they found the murder weapon plus the victim’s personal effects. They also found the victim’s rotting head in the 2nd floor bathroom.

Detectives arrested Tamura Runa for murder. However, they also arrested her father, whom they identified as the individual driving the silver car. In other words, Runa’s dad Osamu, a psychiatrist in Sapporo, had helped her flee the scene.

Police didn’t stop there, however. They also arrested Runa’s mother, Hiroko, claiming she also had prior knowledge of her daughter’s intent. The evidence implicated the entire family in a conspiracy to cover up a murder.

Sex, deceit, and murder

Who was the victim to Tamura Runa? Why was a 60-year-old man involved in a relationship with this young woman? And how – and why – did her family get involved?

There’s still a lot we don’t know about what happened. What we do know is that Runa and the victim knew each other previously. Police found video evidence of a dance event in May 2023 that the two attended. Based on footage, it didn’t seem like it was their first time meeting. The two appeared to know each other and be close.

The footage, however, showed something else interesting.

Runa’s father, Osamu, was at the same event – standing on the sidelines and looking at the two from a distance.

According to reports and court testimony to date, Runa had a relationship with the victim that ended up with the two of them having consensual sex in a hotel. However, Runa reportedly learned after that the victim hadn’t used any protection. The victim reportedly escorted her to a clinic where she obtained the morning after pill. However, Runa was reportedly so upset by this deception that she plotted the man’s murder.

A bizarre family dynamic

An illustration created by Tamura Hiroko, from her Facebook page.

Further investigation by NHK and other news agencies revealed a bizarre family dynamic. Family and friends say that Osamu and Hiroko loved their daughter to such an extent that she became the queen of the household, with her needs and desires being absolute. They bought her whatever she wanted and needed. Dinner on any given night was whatever Runa wanted.

However, over time, this “daughter first” policy seems to have strained the family. Neighbors say Osamu spent many evenings outside of work in a manga cafe. He spent most of his time at home in the garage and reportedly slept in his car. Meanwhile, neighbors say Runa rarely left the house.

That “daughter first” policy apparently extended, if not to covering up a murder, then at least to failing to report it.

In June 2024, Runa’s mother, Hiroko, took the stand for the first time. Hiroko, who’s charged with helping Runa hide the body of her victim and cover for her crime, is maintaining her innocence, saying she had no intention of becoming complicit.

That defense will likely be an uphill battle. According to police, Hiroko admitted that she knew that Runa intended to commit murder. “I wanted to stop her but I couldn’t,” she reportedly told detectives.

Runa’s mother: “I’m a slave”

However, in court last week, Hiroko denied she gave permission for her daughter to keep the victim’s putrefying head in her 2nd-floor bathroom. Runa reportedly asked her mother to make a video of the victim’s head after she brought it home. Asked about this in court, Hiroko says she was so frightened to see what Runa had brought home that she asked her husband to help instead.

“It was an unbearable situation,” Hiroko testified.

Hiroko’s lawyers are arguing that knowing what her daughter did but failing to report it doesn’t amount to her assisting with the crime. They say that Runa forced her mother to write a “pledge” that proclaimed: “Don’t waste my precious daughter’s time. I’m a slave. I should understand my position as a slave and not waste gas or money.”

Hiroko’s trial resumes on July 1st. It remains to be seen whether a court will buy her claims that silence doesn’t equal aiding and abetting.

We will update this post as the cases against Runa and her family unfold – stay tuned for more.

Sources

繁華街ススキノで何が ~不可解な事件の背景を追う. NHK News

【浴室から男性の頭部…前代未聞の猟奇的事件の真相は?】ススキノのホテルで男性の首切断 「娘が事件を起こしたのは後で知った。計画は知らなかった」事件発覚当時に共謀否定した母親 初公判で何を語る?Hokkaido News UHB

すすきの. Wikipedia JP

〈札幌すすきの首切断事件ついに起訴〉「ホテルに入った途端、女装家は男になった」一家総出の復讐か? サイコパスか? 皮が剥がれた首をもてあそぶ娘、その様子を撮影したのは… Shueisha Online

【すすきの“頭部切断”】「私は奴隷」誓約書…いびつな親子関係が 母親初公判…起訴内容を否認. NTV via YouTube

ススキノ殺人「カミさんにバレないように…」「逮捕の60歳妻が描いたアマビエイラスト」父親のSNSで浮上した違和感と“闇”. News Post Seven

<ススキノ首切断>『おじさんの頭持ってきた。カメラマンするでしょ? 私の作品見て』弁護側が明らかにした“いびつな家族関係と猟奇的犯行”「娘と一緒に暮らせなくなる日がすぐそこまで来ている」裁判詳報. FNN Prime Online

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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