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Asami remembered on anniversary of death

Ryan Hamilton-Davis Saturday, February 11 2017

ONE YEAR has passed since 31-year-old Japanese national Asami Nagakiya was found dead at the Queen’s Park Savannah.

The young woman, who came to Trinidad to play the steelpan and take part in the carnival celebrations was found murdered on February 10 last year. She had been coming to Trinidad on her own for eight years, to play the tenor pan. She last played with PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars but, also played with several other bands, including the Woodbrook Modernaires and Desperadoes.

Last year was her first time ever playing mas. It was, unfortunately, her last time. Her death remains among a long list of unsolved murders in which police struggle to find a breakthrough. Although an entire year has passed and her murder has faded from the memories of some, for her close friends and fellow pannists, the pain of her loss still resonates with them.

Newsday spoke to Marcus Ash the drill master of PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars, on Thursday night during a one-year commemoration of her death. The band put up a memorial at their panyard on Tragerete Road, which was on display while they practised. The memorial had a framed collage of photos, and sticks of incense which were lit in her memory.

The collage, along with a Japanese fan signed by the band members, would be part of a care package which would be sent to Nagakiya’s parents at her home town, the Sapporo-shi province, in Hokkaido, Japan. They intend to send the package after Panorama.

Ash said on Thursday night that while he, along with all Nagakiya’s friends and loved ones in Trinidad, feel disappointed that the murder was not yet solved, he wishes that her killer would come forward.

“The entire thing is unfortunate.” said Ash, “I don’t know if the killer would be able to sleep when the night comes, but I just wish they would turn themselves in and make this even easier. I would pray for them that they could find some peace someday.” Ash described Nagakiya as a warm and friendly person with an effervescent personality.

“If Asami were here today, she would have probably been running in the yard late, and busy looking for a pan to start practising.

She was the most bubbly and energetic person in the band, especially among the foreign players.

That personality is what she would be remembered for most.” Ash said that when she died a year ago, he could not come to terms with it. He said that he still feels like if she is alive, but she simply did not come to the country this year.

“We miss her. The band misses her.” Ash said. “To come to terms with the fact that she died is very hard, especially for the players.

Any conversation we have among ourselves, her name would pop up.

Every time someone does something, or makes a joke someone would say, what would Asami do if she were here? Some people would laugh, others would get very quiet.” Ash recalled the last time he saw Nagakiya. He said that he, along with fellow band members were at the panyard on carnival Tuesday, when she showed up. The band was planning to go “down the islands” to relax on Ash Wednesday, and he reminded her that they had to meet up at 8 am to make the trip. She promised that she would be there early, but she never arrived.

According to reports, she was last seen walking up Woodford Street in the company of a man.

She had been staying on that street during the carnival season.

At 9.30 am on Ash Wednesday, Nagakiya’s body was found by a street dweller. She was still wearing the carnival costume which she wore during the day while playing mas with the Legacy band.

Newsday spoke to one of the first responders on the scene - a police constable working at the Portof- Spain Division. The constable said that the discovery of the body came as a shock to him.

“We were on mobile patrol on that day, and we were driving around the Queen’s Park Savannah, near Queen’s Royal College when out of nowhere a street dweller ran out in front the vehicle and stopped us.” said the constable, “The man said he was seeing something that looked like a mannequin lying under a Brazil Nut Tree, and we should investigate.

When we checked, we were not sure if it was a mannequin or a body, because of how pale her skin was, but when we saw ants crawling out from underneath her body, we realised it was a corpse.” The constable said he immediately moved the man from the area, and called for Homicide and Crime Scene Investigators to cordon off the scene.

The entire pan community, along with the country as a whole, joined in mourning and bewilderment, wondering who would want to kill a woman who so loved this country and its national instrument.

Quite possibly the only person who was punished for her death was former mayor Raymond Tim Kee, for his remarks after her death. He said that women should take responsibility for protecting themselves and mentioned that he had spoken in the past about “lewdness” which was displayed by women during the carnival season.

The statements sparked outrage among feminist groups, such as “Womantra”. A massive call for the mayor to step down, ultimately led to his resignation.

An autopsy performed by Dr Valeri Alexandrov at the Forensic Science Centre in St James revealed that someone used their bare hands to strangle her.

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