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Archive Story
Transcript - Night stalkers
February 27, 2005
Reporter: Liz Hayes
Producer: Stephen Rice
Japanese cannibal, Issei Sagawa talks with Liz Hayes.
 Japanese cannibal, Issei Sagawa talks with Liz Hayes.
LIZ HAYES: You have to ask, how on earth can this happen? Every year, hundreds and hundreds of bright-eyed young Australian girls head for the bright lights of Tokyo, every one of them in grave danger. Innocents like 21-year-old Carita Ridgway are easy prey for rich Japanese men. She died a terrible death, a victim of Japan's worst serial rapist. A monster who not only drugged and raped more than 150 women, he videotaped all his hideous crimes. And the frightening thing is, he's not alone. In Tokyo tonight, the predators will be on the prowl looking for young Australians.

LIZ HAYES: It was meant to be the beginning of a new career. At 21, Carita Ridgway was already an accomplished model and now trying to make it in the movies. But first, this young beauty wanted to take a working holiday and, like thousands of other Australian girls, boarded a plane for Tokyo.
So Carita had never expressed any concerns about this job at all?

NIGEL RIDGWAY: No, she hadn't. I think they just thought it was a bit of a laugh, really, easy money.

LIZ HAYES: What happened to Carita in Japan has, until now, been a mystery. It's a horrifying story — a story of rape and murder and men who prey on innocent young Australian women.

ROB COX: Sexual violation to a stripper or hostess would happen every night. Every night.

LIZ HAYES: Every night an Australian girl is abused?

ROB COX: Yep. Yep. Every night.

LIZ HAYES: This is Tokyo's red-light district, Roppongi. It's a Saturday night and, like millions of other Japanese men, Mr Sagawa is looking for love and, in particular, the love of a young Western girl.

ISSEI SAGAWA: They're beautiful, especially white young girls.

LIZ HAYES: You just love young white girls?

ISSEI SAGAWA: Yeah, blonde hair and, uh, blue eyes and white skin.

LIZ HAYES: Mr Sagawa's heart has already been broken once by a young Australian dancer whom he showered with gifts and money.
And where is this?

ISSEI SAGAWA: In Canada. Toronto.

LIZ HAYES: You went on holidays together?


LIZ HAYES: But the 22-year-old Melbourne girl was lucky, for she quickly learnt that her mild-mannered boyfriend had a despicable secret.

ISSEI SAGAWA: I really, I wanted to eat her. She looks very delicious.

LIZ HAYES: For the shocking truth about Issei Sagawa is that he is a psychopath, a killer. He's Japan's most notorious cannibal.

ISSEI SAGAWA: First part I ate is from her hips, yeah. I don't know why, but the hips of the girls really attract me.

LIZ HAYES: It was in Paris 20 years ago that we first heard about Issei Sagawa. One night he lured a young woman named Renee Hartevelt to his apartment. There he shot her, methodically cooked her, then ate her body. But Issei Sagawa got away with murder. Judged incurably insane by a French court, he was deported back to Japan and once there, his influential and very wealthy father ensured that he's never spent a day in jail.

ISSEI SAGAWA: A lot of pictures of beautiful girls.

LIZ HAYES: There certainly are. Here in his bedroom Sagawa proudly keeps a record of his obsession. Now he'd like another Australian girlfriend, preferably one that he can add to his trophy wall.

ISSEI SAGAWA: Are you shocked?

LIZ HAYES: Yes, I'm shocked.

ISSEI SAGAWA: I know I'm crazy. I'm crazy. So please don't hate me.

LIZ HAYES: This is Issei Sagawa's hunting ground. It's a lawless place. Here the Mafia is in control. The police are paid to look the other way. On any given night there are more than 500 girls from Australia working at bars like this.

ROB COX: They are the fresh meat, as they call them over there.

LIZ HAYES: The fresh meat?

ROB COX: The fresh meat. Oh, yeah.

LIZ HAYES: Were you working for the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia?

ROB COX: The owner of the company is under the control of the Yakuza.

LIZ HAYES: Rob Cox has broken the Yakuza's code of silence. He's an insider. He once worked for a Tokyo strip club. Cox says it's a world where money can buy you anything — sex, drugs and even the police.

ROB COX: The police and the Yakuza work hand in hand to make sure that the sex industry keeps spinning around and around.

VANESSA: Sometimes you can make up to 10 grand a week or more, you know.

LIZ HAYES: Like every Australian girl who arrives here, Vanessa had to make a choice. She could work in a hostess bar, which involved nothing more than talking with Japanese businessmen, or, for four times the money, she could become a stripper.
Part of the job entails, does it not, dealing with perfect strangers who do want to touch you?


LIZ HAYES: So what do you do about that?

VANESSA: Well, that's why most of the girls get mixed up with, you know, alcohol and drugs.

LIZ HAYES: It has to be said that not all of the young Australians who arrive here succumb to this lifestyle. One was Carita Ridgway, the aspiring actress who had been trying out for movie parts back home.

NIGEL RIDGWAY: She had a great sense of humour. She used to keep us in stitches as a kid because she would mimic all her teachers at school and she'd have them down pat.

LIZ HAYES: Carita's dad Nigel wasn't worried when she left for Japan in 1991 and found a job in a hostess bar.
Did she ever express feeling unsafe?

NIGEL RIDGWAY: No, no. In fact, the opposite. They said that they always felt safe.

LIZ HAYES: But then Carita was asked to go out on a dohan, a Japanese practice where clubs allow a customer to take a hostess out on a date.

VANESSA: In most cases, the girl will go for dinner with the customer. The customer will take you shopping, buy you Gucci … shoes, handbags, that sort of thing.

LIZ HAYES: Once you're taken away, anything can happen?

VANESSA: Oh, definitely. Obviously, it's very dangerous.

LIZ HAYES: One of Carita's first dohans was with this man, a wealthy and well-connected playboy called Joji Obara.
Most of the girls who are hostesses are asked to go out on dohans, which are dates with customers. Were you aware of that?

NIGEL RIDGWAY: No, I wasn't. In fact, you having mentioned it just now is the first time I knew that that was part of the deal.

LIZ HAYES: Joji Obara seemed charming and invited Carita back to one of his luxury apartments for a drink. Within hours, she was in a coma and taken to hospital. Obara told the doctors it was something she ate. Carita died here in Tokyo women's hospital without regaining consciousness. Doctors ruled that she had been suffering from hepatitis. When Carita's family asked the Japanese police to investigate, they were fobbed off, even laughed at. It was to be the first in a series of extraordinary blunders by the Japanese police, blunders that would allow Obara to continue and drug and rape young women for the next eight years.

TIM BLACKMAN: She was very vivacious, a hugely entertaining young lady.

LIZ HAYES: Five years ago, Lucy Blackman told her dad Tim she was heading off to Japan.

TIM BLACKMAN: It seemed an entirely safe and a standard thing to do, really.

LIZ HAYES: She, too, got a job as a hostess and like Carita Ridgway was taken out on a dohan by a charming English-speaking Japanese man who invited her down to his apartment on the coast. It was the last time Lucy Blackman was seen alive.
You basically blanket-bombed Tokyo with your message that you wanted to find your daughter?

TIM BLACKMAN: That's right, because we set up a hotline out there so that girls didn't feel they had to go to the police. They could come to us and tell their story.

LIZ HAYES: One name kept coming up — Joji Obara.

TIM BLACKMAN: Various girls came to us and related this story about being taken to the coast and being date-raped.

LIZ HAYES: Tim Blackman's pressure finally forced the police to act. They raided Obara's seaside haunt. Lucy's dismembered body was found in a shallow grave in a beachside cave just metres from Obara's apartment. How her body could have gone undiscovered for so long is still a mystery. What we do know is that Joji Obara brought hundreds of young Western women here. The pattern was always the same. He would offer the girl a drink spiked with a knockout drug, then rape her while she was unconscious. When Japanese police finally raided his apartment, they found more than 1000 tapes. Obara had recorded his own crimes — the rape of more than 150 women. Some of the women identified on the tapes were Australian. One of them was Carita Ridgway, the 21-year-old from Perth. Now, 10 years later, her family is finally being told the truth. Carita didn't die of hepatitis at all but from the drugs Obara had used while he raped her.

NIGEL RIDGWAY: It is another dimension of, like, horror and disgust. It is just a horrible feeling to think your child has been violated by somebody.

LIZ HAYES: Obara has not been charged with the murder of either Carita Ridgway or Lucy Blackman. Instead, he's on trial for much lesser charges — abduction, rape resulting in death and improper disposal of a body.
What do you believe Lucy's case has exposed about this Japanese society?

TIM BLACKMAN: I think the only thing it actually shows is that the Japanese aren't going to change, unfortunately.

LIZ HAYES: And the risk for Australian girls still remains. In the seedy hostess clubs of Roppongi, it is business as usual, as we discovered when we followed Issei Sagawa on a night out. Here Japan's most notorious criminal quickly found just what he was looking for — three young Australian women. Mr Sagawa introduced himself as his favourite secret agent...

ISSEI SAGAWA: My name is James Bond, okay.

LIZ HAYES: …and chatted happily to the unsuspecting girls.

WOMAN: ST Moths? Yes, in summer.

ISSEI SAGAWA: I am very scared of them, yeah, yeah.

WOMAN: Oh, they're nothing to be scared of. They're cute.

LIZ HAYES: Issei Sagawa swears that these young women have nothing to fear from him.

ISSEI SAGAWA: Never. Never. At least, um, kill, never. Of course I want to eat the meat of young beautiful girls. It will not change at all, but...

LIZ HAYES: You still want to eat the girls, you just don't want to kill them.

ISSEI SAGAWA: Yeah, so I know now that killing is really terrible. So for eating I never kill.

LIZ HAYES: By the time he left, all three of these trusting young Australians had handed him their private phone numbers. Outside, we politely took the girls' phone numbers back from him.
How dangerous do you believe the Roppongi bars and strip clubs are for young foreign girls?

ISSEI SAGAWA: Of course it is very, very dangerous because, um, the customers are very rich. They can do everything.

Previous Stories
 Apr 2005 | Mar 2005 | Feb 2005Dec 2004 | Nov 2004 |

Click Index Click Headline
  Date   Story
 February 27, 2005 Night stalkers
  Straight from the heart
  Bones of contention
 February 20, 2005 Getting of wisdom
  Sunburnt country
  Fat chance
 February 13, 2005 Under suspicion
  Funny business
  The next wave
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