Missing Japanese student found dead at mansion, VPD confirms
Published Friday, September 30, 2016 7:48AM PDT Last Updated Friday, September 30, 2016 7:13PM PDT
The search for a missing Japanese student who vanished in B.C. three weeks ago came to a grim end this week after her body was found on the grounds of an empty Vancouver heritage mansion.
The deceased was discovered Wednesday evening at historic Gabriola House on Davie Street, but the Vancouver Police Department remained tight-lipped for more than a day afterward as officers scoured the surrounding area.
On Friday, police confirmed Natsumi Kogawa was found dead on the property, which has sat vacant and behind construction fencing for several years after being sold to a developer.
Sgt. Brian Montague said officers were initially led to the West End mansion by their investigation into Kogawa’s disappearance.
The 30-year-old ESL student was reported missing on Sept. 12, four days after she was last seen by her roommates at their Burnaby home.
Earlier this week, the RCMP released surveillance footage showing Kogawa walking with a man near Seymour and Hastings streets in downtown Vancouver on Sept. 8.
The man seen in that footage, William Schneider, was arrested by North Okanagan RCMP in Vernon hours after Kogawa's body was found, and remains in police custody.
Suspect has long history with police
One count of indignity to a body was approved against Schneider on Thursday, and police said the 48-year-old is the sole suspect in Kogawa's death.
According to court documents obtained by CTV News, the crime of indignity is believed to have taken place on or around the day he was filmed with the victim.
Records reveal the suspect has faced a litany of other charges since 1998 as well, including break-and-enter, assault with a weapon, and theft.
He was also convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to four years in prison.
Schneider has no fixed address, but staff at the Catholic Charity Men’s Hostel on Cambie Street confirmed he has stayed there.
The missing person investigation was turned over to the VPD's Major Crimes section after Kogawa's body was found, and detectives are now working with the RCMP to gather and analyze evidence.
An autopsy has been scheduled for Monday, and one of the things authorities hope to learn is the exact date that Kogawa was killed.
The relationship between Schneider and the victim isn't clear, and Montague said police can't release much information because of a publication ban on the case.
"We're going to be very cautious about what we share," he told reporters.
"We also have to be cognizant that there are still many witnesses to interview… we don't want to jeopardize our investigation."
Kogawa was known to take part in an English conversation group that often met at Waves Coffee House on Howe Street.
The VPD spokesperson said the timeline of the student’s disappearance will factor heavily into the case.
“There was a fairly large time gap between the time between the time Ms. Kogawa was last seen and the dates she was reported missing,” he said.
“We’re going to do our best to fill in the blanks there, fill in that missing time.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver's St. John Alexander