A love story on several continents, Besançon as the scene of a last meeting and an untraceable corpse: a Chilean citizen will from Tuesday answer before the Doubs Assize Court for the murder, which he has always denied, of his Japanese ex-girlfriend, who has been missing since December 2016 .
With simultaneous translations into Spanish and Japanese and witnesses questioned at video conferencing from Japan or Chile, the hearing, which opens on Tuesday at 9.30, start an extraordinary trial scheduled to continue until April 12.
A brilliant fellow who arrived in Besançon in the summer of 2016 to learn French, Narumi Kurosaki, 21 at the time, has been missing since December 4, 2016. Her ex-boyfriend, Nicolas Zepeda, with whom she had broken up last fall was the last thing that saw her alive.
‘Her parents know after five years that their daughter could neither disappear nor commit suicide. (…) They have no doubt that Mr. Zepeda killed her “, confirms Me Sylvie Galley, lawyer for the family of Narumi, whose mother and youngest sister will take the trip from Tokyo.
According to the prosecution, the young Chilean, who could not stand the break, would have come to find her in Besançon and killed her in her university room before getting rid of the body in the vast forests of the Jurassic, where Doubs meanders.
Last night together
Nicolas Zepeda, 31 now, has been remanded in custody in Besançon since July 2020, following his extradition of Chile, obtained after a fierce battle by French judges.
Defended in particular by Me Jacqueline Laffont, known for being a lawyer for the former TF1 star representative Patrick Poivre d’Arvor or the former President of the Republic Nicolas Sarkozy, the young man who fell in love with Narumi on the benches of the Japanese University of Tsukuba , categorically denies any responsibility for his disappearance.
Imprisoned in isolation because of the media coverage of this affair, “he comes almost relieved to finally be able to explain himself, to finally be heard, he comes for sure,” the defense confirms.
Nicolas Zepeda admitted to having spent this last night in December with Narumi, according to him found by chance during a visit to France. But that night, several witnesses heard “screams of terror” and a dull sound “as if someone was knocking”. However, no one is calling the police.
In the days that followed, relatives of Narumi Kurosaki received messages via the young woman’s accounts on social networks that were sometimes considered inconsistent. Investigators from Besançon’s judicial police will later attribute them to the accused.
It was not until December 13 that an official from the University of Franche-Comté declared the student’s disappearance. Nicolas Zepeda then returned to Chile after spending several days in Spain with a cousin.
As the investigation begins, there is no trace of blood or fight in the student’s room. His personal belongings are all present except a suitcase and a blanket.
Nicolas Zepeda spontaneously introduces himself to the Chilean police and explains that he left Narumi alive after a night spent together. But his actions, such as a detour through a forest or buying matches and a can of flammable product, quickly make him the main suspect.
“A biased accusation without scientific evidence” and “an investigation conducted on the basis of suspicions and assumptions”, the accused’s father, Humberto Zepeda, challenged in February in an interview with JDD.
On the contrary, the public prosecutor for Besançon Etienne Manteaux, who will be the Advocate General at the trial, assessed in January 2021 that the file contained “a lot of technical data” (telephony, geolocation of his vehicle, purchases with bank cards, etc.).
The indictment, he says, is also based on “testimony from relatives challenging Mr Zepeda’s version” of a chance meeting in Besançon and a last night of love.
Despite several investigations, the victim’s body is still untraceable. “As in any criminal case where there is no corpse, it is a delicate case,” notes Me Randall Schwerdorffer, lawyer for the new girlfriend with whom Narumi Kurosaki was dating at the time of his disappearance, also a civilian party.