Ever since his wife disappeared in Japan back in 2011, Yasuo Takamatsu, now 65, has kept on searching for her—or for her body, at least—every single week.
Yuko Takamatsu was 47 when she disappeared in Onagawa, one of the areas worst affected by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on 11 March 2011.
It all started with the earthquake, which was the strongest in Japan’s recorded history. According to National Geographic, “the earthquake struck below the North Pacific Ocean, 130 kilometres (81 miles) east of Sendai, the largest city in the Tōhoku region, a northern part of the island of Honshu,” in turn causing a tsunami.
The Tōhoku tsunami produced waves up to 40 metres (132 feet) high and resulted in more than 450,000 people becoming homeless as a result of the havoc caused. In addition to the thousands of destroyed homes, businesses, roads, and railways, the tsunami also caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The nuclear disaster released toxic, radioactive materials into the environment and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes and businesses. Although the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami are believed to have caused the death of around 15,500 individuals, Fukushima-related deaths have not been added to the number of casualties that resulted from the natural disaster.
Despite so much time having passed, Yasuo has kept on looking for his beloved wife’s body. Talking to the Associated Press (AP) in 2021, the man explained how, during the first two years of Yuko’s disappearance, he looked for her on land.
Yasuo then had to obtain his diving licence in order to try and find Yuko’s remains—and ever since, has gone on weekly dives. “I’m always thinking that she may be somewhere nearby,” he told the AP at the time.
Yasuo added that he will keep on looking for his wife “as long as my body moves.” Talking about the last text he received from Yuko, he shared, “She said, ‘Are you okay? I want to go home.’ I’m sure she still wants to come home.”
Besides his weekly solo dives, once a month, Yasuo also joins local authorities as they conduct underwater searches for some 2,500 people whose remains are still unaccounted for across the region.
Though Yuko’s mobile phone was recovered months after the disaster, to Yasuo’s dismay, her body is yet to be found. Discovered in her phone was one last message Yuko had written down but was unable to send in time, which read “The tsunami is disastrous.”
There’s actually quite a bit of information on the whereabouts of Yuko before her disappearance. Yasuo’s wife was at the bank where she used to work when the earthquake—which struck before the tsunami—hit the region.
Having survived the first event, Yuko was reportedly one among a group of workers trying to help clear up some of the damage done by the earthquake of magnitude 9.0-9.1, which lasted for approximately six minutes.
After someone warned them that a tsunami was coming their way, Yuko and her group decided to find shelter on the roof of the bank’s building. Having been told that the wave was expected to be six metres tall, and because they didn’t have enough time to move to a nearby hospital’s roof, which was known to be taller, they decided to stay where they were.
Tragically, the tsunami was three times bigger than expected, and witnesses took to social media afterwards to recall seeing the bankers trying to escape. One Facebook post read, “We get a lump in our throats every time we think about the female bankers who, wearing skirts, had to climb the ladder with unimaginable fear, and male bankers who threw off their coats at the last minute regardless of the cold weather, their fear, despair and regret.”
On Tuesday 27 September 2022—more than 40 years after the disappearance of Australian woman Roxlyn Bowie—a court was told that the victim’s husband, John Bowie, had murdered and possibly fed her to pigs at a farm situated in a wild part of the country.
Why? Just so that the self-proclaimed “womaniser” could assume “an unfettered relationship” with another woman, of course.
Roxlyn went missing from the property in Walgett, New South Wales where she lived with her husband and their two children, on the night of 5 June 1982. Her body has never been found, but in 2019, following a series of appeals and investigations, police arrested John—now 72 years old—and charged him with her murder, saying at the time that it had been a “long journey” to get to the point where they felt they had enough evidence to make the arrest.
As the trial was put into motion this week, prosecutors told the jury that John, who was then working as an ambulance officer, murdered Roxlyn on the night in question sometime between 7 pm—which perfectly matched with the time when the couple’s kids were put to bed—and 11 pm, when John knocked on the door of his neighbour’s caravan to ‘ask for help’.
Prosecutors then raised the possibility that John disposed of his wife’s body by feeding it to pigs at a local piggery he’d “taken an interest in.” It was also alleged that following the disappearance of Roxlyn but prior to leaving his workplace in 1988, John had told colleagues that “pigs don’t leave any evidence,” “they will never find her,” and “if you ever want to get rid of anybody, feed them to the wild pigs because they don’t leave anything, not even the bones.”
On one occasion, he even told the meal room of a Sydney ambulance station that “the police are giving me a hard time about my wife, but the pigs do a good job and don’t leave anything behind.”
In yet another incident, John reportedly told a woman—who he ended up dating following the death of his wife—that police had “checked out the roo pits and an old mine shaft” for Roxlyn’s body, but if he was going to do something “he would’ve fed her to the pigs, there would’ve been nothing left to find.”
Another woman is expected to testify that after telling John she was having problems with her then-husband and wished someone would kill him, he allegedly responded that he “had killed before, and it was not a nice feeling.” You don’t say…
Here to defend John, barrister Winston Terracini argued that “throwaway lines in relation to fairly inane conversations [are] not confessions.”
“You know, in your own life, that some people say things offhandedly but don’t necessarily mean they want to do certain things,” Terracini told the jury. I mean, there’s bad-mouthing someone and then there’s being faced with numerous witnesses who claim he said such horrible things…
Crown prosecutor Alex Morris alleged that John carried out the crime so that he could more seriously commit to another woman, Gail Clarke, with whom he was having an affair. Morris noted that the man had previously admitted to having a number of affairs with different women while living in Walgett, and considered himself to be a “womaniser.”
He told the court John forced Roxlyn to write two letters before killing her—one that was found in their home after she disappeared and another that was mailed to her parents two days later. In the letter to her parents, Roxlyn allegedly wrote that she was leaving for South or Western Australia “to start a new life.” The letter also requested her family to “please don’t be hard on John because it wasn’t his fault that I left.” Riiight.
John has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but the trial is expected to last six weeks. A lot more can come out during this period of time.