Kayo Matsuzawa’s Unsolved Murder

Kayo Matsuzawa
Kayo Matsuzawa (The Inv}estigator)

29-year-old Japanese tourist Kayo Matsuzawa was a daughter, younger sister, flatmate, friend, and if she were alive today, would have been an aunt. She went missing from Auckland, New Zealand 20 years ago today, around 11 September 1998. Her body was found in a utility cupboard in a stairwell 11 days later on 22 September.

TVNZ Cold Case‘s recent documentary is the second documentary that has been made about Kayo’s unsolved murder. Bryan Bruce’s The Investigator documentary is available on YouTube in three parts (one, two, three).

Timeline and map

  • Friday 11 September 1998
    • Approximately midday: Kayo arrived in Auckland on flight AN626 (a title card in Bryan Bruce’s documentary incorrectly says this was 1999).
    • 2:14 pm: Security camera footage shows Kayo getting off an airport bus on Queen Street, checks into Queen Street Backpackers.
    • 3:32 pm: BNZ CCTV shows Kayo walking past the Countrywide building on Queen Street.
    • Access card records missing (implied in The Investigator).
  • Monday 14 September 1998
    • Kayo due to check out of hostel.
    • Access card records missing (implied in The Investigator).
  • Wednesday 16 September 1998 (reported as five days after Kayo went missing)
    • Kayo’s day bag, passport, and insurance papers found in rubbish bin.
  • Tuesday 22 September 1998
    • Kayo’s body found.
    • One person of interest leaves the country.
Key central Auckland locations relating to Kayo Matsuzawa's murder
Key central Auckland locations relating to Kayo Matsuzawa’s murder (NZ Police)

Kayo

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Kayo’s family were worried about her going to New Zealand. Her plan was to learn English here for a year, and she left Yamagata, Japan for New Zealand in November 1997. In Christchurch she enrolled at the Dominion English School. She also worked in a restaurant.

At the school she met her friend Naomi Saishu who she flatted and travelled New Zealand with, including visiting Queenstown. “She was such a happy cheerful person; never said a bad word about anyone.“ “We’d go shopping together and to any events that were on in Christchurch. We went to the Santa parade and got so sunburnt a friend said she had never seen such dark Japanese people before.”

A postcard from Kayo Matsuzawa
A postcard from Kayo Matsuzawa (Cold Case)

Kayo sent postcards back home regularly. Around August she sent her mother a postcard: “Dear mum. Happy birthday! I’ve decided to come home to Japan on November 4, so another three months to go … Take care. Love, Kayo.“

Kayo’s mother said that: “she had a lot of friends and she’d make anyone around her happy. I can’t describe how kind and nice she was” “she was very friendly and she talked to most people, she wasn’t shy about meeting new people.”

Kayo told Naomi about her plans to travel the North Island. She wanted to visit the Bay of Islands for five days, and visit Auckland. Naomi couldn’t afford to go with her. Kayo promised to send her a postcard.

In The Investigator documentary, Bryan Bruce says that “Kayo didn’t like travelling on her own” and a Police officer described her as a “young, wary … tourist”.

But Kayo’s mother, Humiko Matsuzawa, said the following to Bryan Bruce after being asked about naïvety:

Bryan: “In English we have a word: ‘naïve’, it means to be so innocent that you do not appreciate that people could be actually meaning you harm; that she would take people as we say, on face value, she would tend to trust people.”

Humiko (through a translator): “Mmm that’s right, she would never mistrust a person.”

Naomi said: “she was the kind of person who would make friends with anyone. It wouldn’t be an issue for her to make friends at the backpackers and go out with people she just met. I think that this could be the reason this happened.” “After 10 days, no postcard came, so I did start to wonder. The police showed up at my work and drove me to the station, that’s where they told me, but I already knew by then, it must be Kayo.”

Other friends described her as kind, said she could speak English very well, and reported that she didn’t take drugs.

One postcard she sent from New Zealand to her brother, Junichi Matsuzawa, read: “Thank you so much for your support when I left. It’s much colder here than expected. But it’s such a beautiful place. Everyone here is so kind, I will probably not get killed. I’d better get going now. Please don’t do too much overtime at work, and take good care of yourself”.

Queen Street backpackers

Kayo arrived in Auckland city by bus at around 2:14pm.

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Kayo paid for and checked into a single room on the second floor of Queen Street Backpackers (4 Fort Street) for three nights on 11 September. She spoke to staff and set up her room in a neat, orderly fashion. Then she left her room for what was likely the last time.

At the time, there was a travel centre across the road.

She was last photographed on CCTV at 3:32pm walking past the Countrywide building on Queen Street.

The 11 September was a Friday afternoon, and soon people would be on Queen Street making their way home, or having drinks after work.

The fire alarm tester

Dennis Groves was a fire alarm compliance tester, who on 22 September had just finished servicing the system at the Auckland City Library, then went to the Centrecourt building’s utility room where the fire panel was.

He discovered Kayo’s body.

He told Cold Case “the first smell that I was aware of was the smell of ammonia, then it became a real vile smell”. At first he thought Kayo’s naked body was a mannequin. He went down the stairs to Queen Street and used his phone to call the police. He said “I had a darn good look at the body because I thought I might be called as a witness later on”.

The buildings

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The Centrecourt building in Central Auckland at 131 Queen Street is six storeys high. It shares a stairwell with the old BNZ building beside it.

From the backpackers, turning right then turning left onto Queen Street off of Fort Street brings you to the Centrecourt building after a two-minute walk.

The primary tenant in the Centrecourt building was KEY Education, an English language school with mainly Asian students, on the second floor. In The Investigator it’s described as a Japanese language school.

The shared stairwell is a confusing maze of stairs and doors. There was access to it from a car park, the Centrecourt food court, QF Tavern – a bar/pub, and presumably each floor in the Centrecourt and BNZ buildings.

The Centrecourt car park was accessible from a roller door entrance around the back of the building, on Mills Lane.

The Mills Lane/131 Queen Street carpark roller door, today
The Mills Lane/131 Queen Street car park roller door, today (Google Maps)

From the car park there are lifts that go up through the building and the stairwell. Down one flight of stairs is the corridor where the utility room is, and there’s another car park one level down. The door on the left of the utility room corridor is the fire exit stairwell for the BNZ building.

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From the BNZ stairwell down one floor is an exit to Queen Street. Bryan Bruce points out there is an alarm PIR beside this door, but it’s unclear if it was there in 1998 or at what times it was armed. Down one floor is a door to the BNZ food court. Up one floor is the BNZ car park and then other BNZ tower floors.

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The utility room

Kayo hadn’t been reported missing when her body was found. Kayo’s fingerprints were matched to fingerprints on her belongings left in her hostel room. Dental records from Japan and in person family identification were also used.

Kayo’s cause of death remains unknown because of the time that passed between her death and her body being found.

The room Kayo was found in has been described in various ways. An “alarm room”, probably because there was writing on the door that the “fire alarm panel” was in the room. It’s probably also accurately described as a “small utility room” (Cold Case), or a stairwell cupboard. It may have been a room that firefighters would need to access if they were called to the building.

Writing on the utility room door: "FIRE ALARM PANEL + BATTS in here!"
Writing on the utility room door: “FIRE ALARM PANEL + BATTS in here!” (TVNZ archive footage)

The room could be opened easily using a screwdriver, and that’s how Dennis gained access, as the building manager was difficult to find and keys were not given out readily. The door to the room was designated a smoke control door, and had an auto-closer on it. When Bryan Bruce was filming his documentary nine years later there was no way to hold the door open without using another item.

Utility room door handle
Utility room door handle (TVNZ archive footage)

The room was dark and the light switch was in an unusual location.

Bryan Bruce notes that the room was chosen by the murderer over potentially more discreet methods of hiding Kayo’s body, for example using a vehicle parked in the attached car park to transport the body to another location. He uses this to support his theory that the person did not have access to a vehicle. It’s possible that they did have access to a vehicle, but saw moving the body as a risk, either because they might have been seen in the car park, pulled over with the body in their vehicle, or left forensic evidence behind in their vehicle. They chose not to move the body even though it’s likely they returned to the room to clean up (building access records were missing for two periods of time, and some of Kayo’s belongings were disposed of days later).

There were probably rubbish bins in the building that they also chose not to use, a roof area, or even moving Kayo’s body from the building in a suitcase or other container. Kayo only weighed 50kg or 110 pounds.

Theory: building access

The original investigation appears to have focused on who had access to the buildings connected to the stairwell, and checking their alibis. This numbered in the hundreds of people who worked across the two buildings. As well as controlled access, including from the building car park, which was controlled by DKS (Data Key System) key access, the stairwell was accessible to the public via the Centrecourt food court/foodhall, and the QF Tavern – a bar/pub on the street.

“Centrecourt tenants reported that people often accessed the stairwell without a swipe card. Toilets and public areas were messy after the weekends, and the bar downstairs had a fire exit into the stairwell where patrons went to smoke. Police want to hear from anyone who was in the Centrecourt building over the time Kayo went missing and noticed anything unusual.” (Cold Case)

This was Bryan Bruce’s theory in his documentary, stating “the murderer must have had security access to the building“. The Mills Lane car park was described as “one of two ways you can get in[to the building]”. A DKS key was required to enter or exit using the car park roller door.

One part of the investigation that was not mentioned in the Cold Case documentary was the missing building access records.

Some of the doors to the Centrecourt and BNZ buildings were controlled by DKS and Cardax access control systems. Access control records for each system are stored in two separate physical locations across both buildings. Records for certain times on the weekend that Kayo was murdered are missing. One of the computers is hidden away in another utility cupboard in the Centrecourt building. The other Cardax system’s computer is in the BNZ Tower Management office. The Cardax system prints paper records that were also missing. The Investigator implies the dates that records are missing are Friday 11 September 1998 and Monday 14 September 1998.

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DNA

Police revealed on August 2018’s episode of Cold Case that using Y-STR DNA testing they had found male DNA under Kayo’s fingernails. Police would be able to compare it to a DNA sample taken from a male suspect.

People of interest

Fire alarm tester

Dennis, the fire alarm tester was initially a person of interest, but was ruled out by Police. His movements as part of his job were electronically monitored.

Language school associate

One person of interest was associated with the Centrecourt language school. The timings of their alibi didn’t check out, but the Police later concluded that this was due to an honest mistake.

British serial killer

Around 2000 it was reported that Alan Michael Grimson, who in 2001 was convicted of killing two young men in England, was based at the Devonport Naval Base fire school in Auckland, New Zealand as a trainer at the time of Kayo’s murder.

Graham Osborne, manager of the fire alarm maintenance company responsible for the Centrecourt building, Wormald, said he had met Grimson a few times at the fire school, but that there was no reason for Grimson to have known about the Centrecourt building.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Baker observed that Grimson appeared to have targeted young men. Police suspect that Grimson trawled nightclubs for victims, and that there are more, unknown victims who may have been murdered on December 12 of various years.

Ukrainian backpacker resident

Another person of interest was a Ukrainian man who was a long-term resident at the Queen Street Backpackers. He was described as eccentric, paranoid, and with a mental health history.

He matched a description that a witness gave that they saw an older chap with a dishevelled look walking with an Asian female. The witness thought the Asian female could have been Kayo. This man left the country on the day Kayo’s body was found. He dealt in second-hand jewellery, and had pawned jewellery in Australia that matched the description of Kayo’s missing jewellery. Police say they tracked down the jewellery that he pawned and conclusively eliminated it as being Kayo’s jewellery.

Two years later he was found by French police squatting in an airport and triggered an INTERPOL alert. He was extradited back to NZ and an officer spent two days interviewing him. The officer explains why the man was ruled out: “my gut instinct is that it wasn’t him… a guy with a clear mental health history… was he the kind of person who would have been able to approach Kayo, strike up a conversation and entice her into the stairwell?”

Newest suspect

Around 2018 another district advised Auckland Police of a potential person of interest. The district is not necessarily in New Zealand. Police say that he “looks really good” as a suspect. Bank records show that this person used their EFTPOS or ATM card at the Queen Street’s BNZ building ATM on the same afternoon that Kayo arrived. From the emphasis placed on it in the Cold Case documentary, it’s likely this person’s previous offending has involved spiking the drinks of their victims.

Clothing and belongings

An actress wearing the clothing Kayo Matsuzawa is thought to have been wearing when she went missing
An actress wearing the clothing Kayo Matsuzawa is thought to have been wearing when she went missing (Cold Case)

Security camera footage shows that Kayo was wearing black bootleg pants, a black jacket, black shoes, and a backpack. Her clothing as well as her jewellery (small silver crescent-shaped earrings and a small delicate gold band ring with a single pink stone) has not been found.

Recreation of what Kayo Matsuzawa's missing ring looked like
Recreation of what Kayo Matsuzawa’s missing ring looked like (The Investigator)

Five days after Kayo went missing, which would have been around Wednesday 16 September 1998, some of Kayo’s possessions (including her day bag, passport, and insurance papers) were found in a public rubbish bin on the corner of Albert Street and Swanson Street by a rubbish collector. The bins in the central city are emptied two to three times a day.

Kayo Matsuzawa's passport
Kayo Matsuzawa’s passport (The Investigator)

In the Cold Case documentary the series of events were described as: the rubbish collector emptied the contents of the rubbish bin into a truck, property spilled out including Kayo’s purse and passport, the collector took the passport back to the office where it sat before reports of Kayo’s homicide hit the media. An office administrator contacted Police after media reported an unidentified body being found.

In Bryan Bruce’s documentary, The Investigator, the rubbish collector was described as finding Kayo’s passport and insurance-type papers, and taking them home, then Police were contacted after media reported an unidentified body was found.

No additional fingerprints were found on the passport.

As a result of this information, the Police spent approximately two weeks sifting through the rubbish at Greenmount Landfill, East Tamaki.

Police officers search Greenmount Landfill in East Tamaki for items belonging to Kayo Matsuzawa in 1998
Police officers search Greenmount Landfill in East Tamaki for items belonging to Kayo Matsuzawa in 1998 (NZ Herald)

Theory: drink spiking

The primary theory Police seem to be pursuing now is that Kayo’s drink was spiked.

In the Police’s opinion though, she wasn’t a drinker of alcoholic drinks. Her friend Naomi said “she could only drink a small amount, she couldn’t even finish a bottle of beer. It’s hard to imagine she’d be willing to drink unless someone forced her.” However, in Bryan Bruce’s documentary the following conversation occurred with Kayo’s friends:

“Voiceover: Did Kayo always stick to the rules? Did she take drugs for example? No, say her friends. But she did like to have a drink.
Friend: [Describing a photograph] We are sharing a liquor. And only a few glasses makes her drunken. And Kayo was so attractive cute lady so she was quite popular among men. And she can speak to everybody because her English capability is quite good. And in addition to it she was a good dancer.”

Taking into account both statements, a sound conclusion to draw would probably be that Kayo would have been unlikely to visit a bar, like the one attached to the Centrecourt building, unless she was with someone else.

Kayo had just arrived off a midday flight – it’s possible she went to the Centrecourt food court for a late lunch. The building was advertised as having a ‘international foodhall’ and an observation deck. It’s less likely, but still possible that her drink or food was spiked there.

A sign advertising the international foodhall outside the Centrecourt building
A sign advertising the international foodhall outside the Centrecourt building. A sign advertising the QF Tavern is in the bottom-left of the photograph. (TVNZ)

At some point Kayo ends up in the Centrecourt stairwell, probably sometime that evening. People would be less likely to be leaving work via the stairwell after 5:30pm or 6:00pm. But later into the night the stairwell turned into the place for patrons from QF Tavern to smoke.

Profile

The suspect has been described as:

  • having the confidence to go back to the scene,
  • being confident or comfortable enough to approach a tourist, possibly someone around Kayo’s age, someone she was comfortable enough to stay with for one or two hours, and someone who looked trustworthy (on the other hand, drink spiking may mean this isn’t as important),
  • forensically aware – there were no fingerprints on the belongings found in the rubbish bin, and apart from under Kayo’s fingernails, no DNA was found,
  • someone who has probably been involved in an act like this before,
  • being premeditated, and
  • having a sexual connotation behind their offending.

Can you help?

People, including tourists visiting Auckland, who were 20 in 1998 and might have been visiting the QF Tavern or otherwise been on Queen Street on or around 11 September 1998 would be around 40-years-old now.

Kayo’s murder is one of 65 cold case murders in New Zealand and was revisited by the documentary series Cold Case. Police would like to hear from anyone with information on 0800 COLD CASE (0800 2653 2273). You can also call the Auckland Police on +64 9 302 6400 from overseas, visit their website, or visit the Cold Case Facebook page.

Excessive burden? USA not contributing to NZ’s $5.8m Dotcom case costs

Kim Dotcom outside New Zealand's Parliament

Crown Law has provided figures under the Official Information Act on the money and time spent in relation to legal work completed in respect of Kim Dotcom and his associates which amounts to more than $5.8 million.

Crown Law writes that the United States Department of Justice is not reimbursing New Zealand for any of these expenses, even though the cases largely relate to charges that they wish to bring against Mr Dotcom and his associates.

Crown Law hours spent

The figures:

  • are as at 8 February 2017;
  • include work on both domestic and mutual assistance (United States initiated extradition) legal proceedings;
  • exclude work completed to provide advice to other Government Departments, for example the Police or the GCSB who respectively picked up the bill for Crown Law’s advice to them; and
  • include most Crown Law legal staff time and some support staff time.

2011: 432.10
2012: 7,356.67
2013: 4,087.50
2014: 5,742.27
2015: 4,911.80
2016: 3,207.26
2017: 4.77
Total: 25,742.37

25,000 hours.

Using a conservative estimate of the value of the time spent ($140 per hour,1 which is the rate a Crown Law junior prosecutor would be billed out as – senior solicitors’ time is likely worth more, support staffs’ likely less), this comes to around NZD $3.6 million.

Disbursements

New Zealand has also covered the bill for work completed by external counsel on Crown Law’s behalf and expenses paid by Crown Law in relation to the Dotcom/Megaupload matters – another NZD $2.2 million.

This includes: $1.98 million on external barrister/solicitor fees, $171,800 on travel and accommodation, $23,151 on Court filing fees, $20,125 on photocopying, and $17,356 on professional fees including research material.

An excessive burden?

At least NZD $5.8 million has been spent on Kim Dotcom et al. by New Zealand so far, and it begs the question: was it worth it?

Should we have refused the United States’ mutual assistance request when it was made? Section 27(g)(i) of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 allows New Zealand to refuse a request made by a foreign country if “in the opinion of the Attorney-General, the provision of assistance would impose an excessive burden on the resources of New Zealand”.

Kim Dotcom had hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets before the raid on his home and it’s not a shock that he has aggressively defended the cases brought against him.

If spending $5.8 million+ has not been an excessive burden on New Zealand, what amount would be?

1 This is a lower rate to that used by David Fisher in his September 2015 article of $198/hour.

Image credit: Sarah-Rose


The full response from Crown Law, including the breakdown of expenses incurred is embedded below.

University of Canterbury must improve crisis student communication and support

Need help? In New Zealand, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, Youthline on 0800 37 66 33 or find out about other crisis services here.

Student communication

University of Canterbury James Hight libraryOn 22 July 2016 a woman was sexually assaulted while walking through the University of Canterbury owned Ilam Fields.

In response to a request from the Police, who informed UC Security of a “physical assault”, an email was sent to all students that day.

On 24 July 2016 a reporter from The Press contacted the University in response to the Police releasing a statement to the media. The Police told The Press that the assault was actually a sexual assault, and this fact was published in an article that day. In response to an Official Information Act request, most of which was initially declined, the University said that “the Police appeared not to have told the University of the sexual nature of the incident before telling the media”.

However, the University did not inform students of the sexual nature of the incident after it became public knowledge. The assault was alluded to in a 28 July UC blog post, which included 10 ’safety and security tips’ and a list of ’support for students’ links, including a link to the UC Health Centre. This content was also included in the next edition of the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’, a weekly digest sent to all students, on 31 July.


Last night a student died suddenly at the Rochester and Rutherford Hall of Residence.

The death has been reported as sudden and not suspicious, often used by the media as code for a suspected suicide.

UC acting vice-chancellor, Dr Hamish Cochrane was quoted by the media as saying “all the university’s students and staff were advised [Sunday], and made aware of the support available”.

Communication to students consisted solely of a UC blog post listing four UC support services that are available to students, including the UC Health Centre. Links to blog posts appear for a few days in the sidebar of Learn, UC’s online learning management system which is regularly accessed by students and staff. However, no email was sent to students, and there was no acknowledgment that a student had died.

Late on Sunday night, a link to the blog post was included in the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’ emailed to students.

UC Health Centre Counselling under pressure

Students are struggling to access support.

The UC Health Centre provides free counselling to UC students, however their website states that counselling appointments “are in high demand [and] you may have to wait a few weeks to be seen”. During office hours there is an on-call counsellor to deal with students facing an “emergency situation”.

During this year’s UCSA elections one group of candidates asked students on Facebook which one out of four campaign policies they thought was most important. “Increased mental health awareness and support” was voted second. In response to a question asking how the UCSA should help support those with mental health issues, students voted overwhelmingly for “increased health centre funding for more counsellors”.

Students wanting to skip the UC Health Centre counselling waiting list could choose to pay for sessions with a private counsellor or psychologist. Students may be eligible for the disability allowance, however there are restrictions, including a maximum payment of $61.69 a week (appointments with private psychologists can cost $150 or more).

When an internet forum solves a crime before the police

Hotel

“Seriously lacking hotel. Staff seems overwhelmed. Rooms are marginal at best. And then there’s the dead body in the water tower.” – Christopher Karwowski, Google Review

Elisa Lam went missing at the end of January 2013 and around February 19 was found in one of her hotel building’s water tanks, used by guests and residents for drinking and bathing. The hotel has a little history, like of serial killers staying there. To add to the weirdness her death was ruled an accident and the footage police released in an attempt to find her after she went missing was, well bizarre:

The police had searched the roof with dogs and either missed her body or it wasn’t there yet. A thread on Web Sleuth’s about the case makes eerie reading (look at the timestamps).

“Do you suppose LE physically checked every room (nook & cranny) in the hotel/hostel…??? or would they require a search warrant to do that…???”

tarabull at 02-09-2013, 03:56PM

“Ok, is there anywhere she may have gone into the water, or fallen off something?”

Wolf Dreamer at 02-14-2013, 04:29PM

“in my opinion i think it is very probable she got herself
stuck somewhere while hiding,
i really hope they have searched every mouse hole in that ***** hole”

Catchy kitty at 02-15-2013, 01:08AM

“Gotta ask the dumb question.

Do you think the police searched every room in the building?

Maybe she hasn’t left the building”

jetsetsam at 02-15-2013, 01:19 AM

“I have a hard time believing every nook and cranny has been searched – I feel like there’s a good chance she’s still in the building.”

tarabull at 02-16-2013, 12:01 PM

“There are other places in the hotel they could search without having to get a warrant, though… dumpsters, kitchen area, storage areas, the basement, to name a few. I’m sure the hotel managers would gladly allow it without a warrant.”

TxLady2 at 02-16-2013, 12:28 PM

“I really want to know if they have searched the WHOLE building. I think it is necessary.”

ahlang1226 at 02-16-2013, 03:50 PM

“Hoping that the roof and furnace room have been checked… Watched the video many times now and it really is freaky, wonder if Elisa’s friends can interpret any of her gestures?”

dotr at 02-17-2013, 01:14 AM

“Can the police just search the whole hotel please………Someone on facebook wrote this, bascically saying Elisa is still in the building:

‘I’m with Ken. She is still in the hotel. Either she was take to another hotel room, the roof, basement or… But I don’t believe she left. … I wish the police would check all the rooms and fire escapes and storage areas. I think she is still there.’”

ahlang1226 at 02-17-2013, 02:22 AM

Image credit: John Stavely

Secret SIS Search Warrants and Telco Data Retention

This phone is tapped

The SIS and police confiscated digital devices belonging to Former Fijian cabinet minister Rajesh Singh last week “in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate Fiji’s leader Voreqe Bainimarama”.

A woman from the SIS turned up with three plain clothed police officers and said she had a search warrant. But she couldn’t show Rajesh it or give him a copy because it was classified. Because you know, wanting to know why people are raiding your house is a completely unreasonable request.

Idiot/Savant asks why, if the alleged plot was actually reasonable, was Rajesh or someone else not arrested. @civillibertynz points out that this secret warrant wouldn’t even need to be presented in court later on.

The laptop and phone were returned later in the day, assumedly after being copied. I wonder if the SIS are allowed to install spyware?

Data retention by NZ telecom providers

I also wonder whether they needed physical access to the phone for what they were looking for. Telecom companies here are very vague about how long they keep user data for. It doesn’t seem like customer facing staff (and thus customers) are generally privy to the period of time information is actually kept.

Telecom says text message content is stored for two to three months. Vodafone says up to six months. 2degrees said six months, but that the technical team could access archives further back than that (a detail I wonder if others didn’t mention).

I requested my data from 2Degrees and they sent me every text message I had sent involving 2Degrees (18+ months worth), including nine months of text messages I had sent to 2degrees customers when I was on another network.

I wonder whether in practice this Telecommunications Information Privacy Code rule is being followed:

“A telecommunications agency that holds telecommunications information must not keep that information for longer than is required for the purposes for which the  information may lawfully be used.”

I understand that there’s no legal requirement for telcos to keep a hold of this data at all (section 40).

Whose interests are being served by keeping information for such an unnecessary amount of time, especially when customers have no idea it’s happening?

And whose interests are being served when a secret search warrant is served on an ex-foreign cabinet minister in relation to a dubious overseas assassination plot?

Image credit: tenaciousme

Where Is The CCTV Footage From The Dotcom Mansion Raid?

CCTV camera

Ars Technica sez:

“Since January, the Dotcom legal team has asked for the footage, but police refused, until finally the agency agreed that an IT expert for DotCom could come and collect a copy of the footage. When the IT expert arrived at the police station, he found the server completely disassembled, and authorities said they could not reassemble it or give him any footage. Now, no one outside the police agency is sure the footage still exists.”

Here’s what the Police said to me on 13 February:

“Police do not have any equipment which may hold this security footage. This equipment is held by the Official Assignee on behalf of the Crown, not Police.”

And here’s what the Insolvency & Trustee Service said on 17 February:

“The Official Assignee has no knowledge of any security camera footage.”

So what exactly does this footage show that the police and friends don’t want getting out?

Image credit: Charbel Akhras

THAT’S A RECORDING DEVICE!

Spilt tea

Someone has finally released the teapot tapes, the recording of John Key and John Banks talking at a Newmarket café, inadvertently recorded by cameraman Bradley Ambrose. This should have happened before the election.

Stuff are probably referring to the partial phone number John Key gives out when they say the authenticity of the tape is confirmed by information in the tape.

Here’s Steven Price on why it’s okay to link to.

Apparently police want to talk to six people who were in the café during the talk, because, you know, they probably recorded the conversation as well! (Or they can provide better details than the camera footage the police have?)

Mirrors: YouTube, SoundCloud and here.

Highlights:
(first four based on XboomcrashbangX’s comment on YouTube)

2:40 National Party are working with someone they would rather not. They are careful not to mention who.

4:08 A lot of Winston Peters’ constituents/supporters will have died.

6:10 John Key purposely doesn’t text John Banks so that it appears they are not working too closely, so they can say that they haven’t been in contact.

6:52 Don Brash is a strange fellow.

7:22 Is that yours? That’s a recording device!

7:40 What’s that? Someone’s recording device. Let’s take it with us.

10:30 It’s right here and it’s still going. [something about turning it on/off.] Take the batteries out.

Image credit: Lee Jordan

I don’t consent to this search, Mrs Tolley

The Ministry of Education has released guidelines regarding schools searching students and confiscating their property. The Education Act doesn’t specifically give schools the power to search and the issue hasn’t come before a New Zealand court before, so the guidelines really are just that. It’s possible though that courts would say that searching is an implied power under the general umbrella of a board having “complete discretion to control the management of the school as it thinks fit.”

On the other hand, it could be argued that as significant privacy issues are involved and that the power of search is not specifically given to schools that such searches are not lawful.

The protection from unreasonable search and seizure comes from the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act:

“Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property, or correspondence or otherwise.”

Risk to safety

Backpack contentsThese three words form the basis of the guidelines. The item being searched for must pose a risk to safety.

“Risk to safety means that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that students or staff are at risk of harm from an item that poses an immediate or direct threat to physical or emotional safety.”

I interpret an item posing an immediate or direct threat as one when the student possessing it has an intention to use it right now. In the examples attached to the guidelines, staff involved consider “whether there is an imminent risk to the physical or emotional safety of students or staff …”

I struggle to think of an example where a dangerous item is all at once: not visible (because if it was visible, no search would need to take place), is about to be used, and where it would be a good idea to start trying to search the student rather than try to deescalate the situation so the item isn’t pulled out.

A common sense approach!

So basically, instead of taking the student away from others and getting the police involved to begin with, school staff should involve themselves with dangerous or illegal items, potentially escalating a volatile situation. And of course, the student that won’t willingly hand over an item they’re suspected to have will obviously be happy to comply with an intrusive and legally questionable search.

Violate rights, tell parents later

“Except in exceptional circumstances you should inform parents or caregivers after a search has been conducted (if you have not already contacted them).”

No. Parents should be contacted first, always.

Diaries, mobile phones, and laptops

The guidelines mention searching correspondence under the definition of a search. They state that this would include “written and electronic material (e.g. in a diary, on a mobile phone or on a laptop).” None are mentioned again in the guidelines, except for a laptop in a weak example (see below).

This gives the impression that a diary, mobile phone or laptop could theoretically be searched in accordance with the “imminent risk of physical or emotional harm” criteria. Cue alarm bells. How that criteria could be construed as applying to electronic devices and diaries potentially containing very private material is beyond me.

Lukewarm examples

There is no strong scenario provided with the guidelines where a search should actually be conducted.

Scenario 1: Pornography on a laptop. Example correctly concludes that a laptop isn’t a threat if it’s not turned on and so shouldn’t be searched.

Scenario 2: Students caught smoking marijuana say they were sold it by another student. No search because police have to be called because of the illegal items potentially involved.

Scenario 3: Students are lighting deodorant on fire. Friends of a student hand over their lighters. Student is suspected to still have a lighter. Example says that there is an imminent risk to the physical or emotional safety of students or staff in this situation because “a student could easily be burnt if the activity continues.” Imminent risk, really?

Concludes that “as the risk is significant it is likely that the search should – if it safe to do so – be conducted.” I say education would be better than a search. There’s nothing stopping the student from bringing another lighter the next day after he’s searched. Searching isn’t going to magically solve the underlying problem.

Scenario 4: Hearsay that a student is going to “get” another student and more hearsay about a “knife.” Student seems upset and angry, doesn’t stop when teacher asks him/her to. Example correctly concludes that searching straight away when a situation isn’t calm isn’t a good idea. Example says if staff conclude there’s an immediate risk to call the police. Tick.

Or if the situation isn’t considered an emergency: the student has calmed down, staff don’t feel threatened, they only think a small pocket knife is involved, staff can “proceed to consider … if a search is appropriate in the circumstances.” Except they can’t have it both ways. If the student is calm and wouldn’t use a knife if he/she had one (no imminent threat) then a search isn’t necessary. If the student would use a knife if he/she had one, then the police should be called.

Unnecessary and a breach of BORA

Vanushi Walters, YouthLaw solicitor speaks the truth. If the situation is serious enough for a search, it’s serious enough for the police.

“Search and seizure powers in schools are unnecessary and a breach of the Bill of Rights Act. She said the most appropriate course of action is for principals and teachers to call the police.”

Let’s make the guidelines law

But wait, there’s more.

“The Ministry was also looking in to possible legislative changes to give schools more support in what was ‘a complex legal area,’ she said.”

Give school staff equivalent or greater powers than the police have so they can search students? Okay!

You want to violate my privacy? You’ll have to put up a fight, I don’t consent to this search.

Image credit: Hello Turkey Toe

The National Interest of Foreign Espionage

A van was crushed by rubble following the February Canterbury earthquake, containing Israeli tourists. One of them, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, was killed instantly. Michal Friedman, Liron Sadeh and Guy Yurdan escaped. It’s been revealed that Israeli involvement after the quake has been investigated by the SIS and the police.

Fact checking

What appears to be the original Southland Times article that broke the investigation seems to have been poorly fact checked and shows a lack of editorial oversight. Shemi Tzur, Israeli’s ambassador in the South Pacific is said to have flown from Australia, where he is based, except a quick Google search shows that he is actually based in Wellington.

The same article talks about a piece of suspected Russian malware named “agent.btz” and says that “attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful”, which gives the impression that the computers of the United States Military are still infected. The next part of the sentence states that “new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing”, so what is probably meant is that attempts to eliminate the malware out of existence have been unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of malware and software in general.

Red flags

9000 passports!James Bond cameras

The Southland Times article says that Ofer Mizrahi “was reportedly found to be carrying at least five passports.” John Key said “according to his information, Mizrahi was found with only one passport”, of European origin.

The group of three that left Christchurch gave Israeli representatives his Israeli passport. So that makes at least two passports.

Shemi Tzur says that he was handed Ofer’s effects and they contained “more than one passport.” Does that makes at least three passports or does this include the Israeli passport handed off at the airport?

He says it’s common for Israelis to have dual citizenship because Israeli passports aren’t welcome in some countries, which is understandable. However that doesn’t explain why Ofer was traveling with both/multiple passports—I am an expert thanks to watching Border Security on TV and conclude that less eyebrows would be raised at an airport if, when searched, someone wasn’t in the possession of more than one passport.

12 hours

Passport stamps

Within 12 hours of the quake the three remaining Israelis had evacuated Christchurch, driven to the airport by Shemi Tzur himself.

This raised eyebrows because they left Ofer behind in the van, but in their defense there was nothing they could have done and it wasn’t like they were leaving someone injured behind. Guy Yurdan, one of the three, said that Ofer was killed instantly.

The advice from many countries to citizens in Christchurch would have been to get out of there as soon as possible. The potential lack of accommodation, food, and water, plus the risk of further aftershocks would have supported their decision to leave as quickly as possible.

A mysterious seventh Israeli

Concerns were raised about a “mysterious seventh Israeli” who was in New Zealand illegally and was reported missing after the earthquake, but weeks later was reported to have left the country. Not sure whether there was anything suspicious about the person apart from their visa situation.

Five Facebook likes

A Facebook tribute page for Ofer came to the attention of investigators because it only had five likes over four months (now 32). Apparently many Israelis don’t have social network accounts. Perhaps those on Facebook who knew Ofer didn’t know of the page? It seems a stretch to say that this is suspicious.

Four phone calls

It’s been reported that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned John Key four times on the day of the earthquake. John Key says that they only actually spoke once in “those first days.” It seems reasonable that a Prime Minister is hard to get hold of, especially during a state of emergency. I’m not sure what the significance of prime ministers calling each other is, I assume representatives from many countries spoke to John Key as a result of the earthquake.

Two search and rescue teamsMission control

There was reportedly one Israeli search and rescue team but then there were two? Either way it seems at least one either wasn’t allowed access to the red zone or was removed from the red zone by armed personnel. According to Shemi Tzur, a team was sent by the parents of Ofer Levy (other Ofer?) and Gabi Ingel, two Israelis who died in the earthquake.

The article says “Israeli families reacted that way when their children needed help anywhere in the world, often because it was demanded by insurance companies.” Insurance companies often demand that families hire and fly to a foreign country private search and rescue teams when search and rescue is already underway by the country?

Strange.

Perhaps stranger is Hilik Magnus, who runs the search and rescue company in question, Magnus International Search & Rescue:

“He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, first lebanon war and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.”

Stranger?

Their team entered the red zone “accompanied by police, only to retrieve the personal effects of two people who died.” “There was only one rescue team and it was allowed inside the red zone to accompany police to retrieve backpacks belonging to Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.”

One Israel Civil Defense Chief

The Southland Times article says “In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck: Israel’s civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Matan Vilnai did visit Christchurch, but nine days later. And not from Israel, but from Australia where he was for a visit.

This doesn’t seem suspicious.

A groups of forensic analysts

An Israeli forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government worked on victim identification in the morgue. A security audit of the national police computer database was ordered after someone connected that the analysts could have accessed it. The police say that their system is secure. Someone from the SIS says that it could be compromised with a USB drive:

“An SIS officer said it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and for a program allowing remote backdoor access to be loaded.”—Stuff

It’s questionable why USB access would even be enabled on computers that have access to such confidential material.

Why New Zealand?

Intelligence

Gordon Thomas, who has written about Mossad says that Mossad trainees, possibly picked during compulsory military service, were usually planted overseas in groups of four. He says that the CIA and MI6 have offices in Auckland and have “held high-level meetings with New Zealand spy bosses”. They want to know what sparked the SIS investigation, what investigations were carried out and what passports the group possessed. He thinks New Zealand is a credible Mossad target because al Qaeda cells could expand into the Pacific Rim. Israel would want to know what our intelligence agencies know, what they are sharing and how good they are at getting information.

He says that Mossad has a reputation for using students as agents and that using two couples is “standard Mossad operation style. The reason they have a man and a woman … it’s easy to pass unnoticed, unchallenged, and the woman acts as back-up.”Passport

Passports

New Zealand passports are readily accepted around the world. Anyone gaining one who had nefarious purposes would likely face no contest at a border. Paul Buchanan, who has worked at the Pentagon says that it’s unlikely the four were Mossad agents because of their age and the apparent low-level task of passport fraud they were undertaking, but they might have been recruits operating as sayanins, the Hebrew word for helper. He says that after the September earthquake, Christchurch may have been seen as a good target to get names of New Zealanders to use for false passports.

 

The three survivors from the van gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, days after the earthquake. It would seem unlike spies to put themselves out in the public eye like that, but maybe that’s reverse psychology. Who knows.

Image credits: Ian Rutherford, Ludovic Bertron, J Aaron Farr, Tom Raftery

“So how do you feel about your light bulbs being stolen?”

Arie Smith-Voorkamp was the face of Christchurch earthquake looting because of the media attention he received. He made it onto at least one of the <insert bad thing here> the [email protected]@#%^## Facebook groups. Shame on the looters! There is no excuse. Who are they to pick on the poor people of Christchurch?

The loot

The story gets interesting when you find out what he is alleged to have stolen. Two light bulbs from an untenanted and vacant building. Police describe the nature of the offending as serious and say that there is a strong public interest in the case. Arie was in jail for 11 days.

Asperger’sEarthquake Damaged Building

Arie has Asperger’s syndrome which fuels his obsession for all things electrical, including old light fittings. “Sometimes I get that excited about it sometimes I can’t sleep.” He had walked past the building many times, and became fixated on a switch in the shop. Once inside he found that the switch was too modern, but found two light bulbs that he thought he could clean up and display in his house. He says he was not thinking about theft, or the danger he was placing himself in.

Sunday programme

The Sunday programme ran a story about Arie last week, which seemed to excite the Police. Canterbury Central Police Area Commander Inspector Derek Erasmus suggested to the building owners they call TVNZ to try to stop the story going to air.

“On Friday the Sunday programme received an email from Inspector Erasmus advising us that we were under criminal investigation in relation to our story. So we’ll keep you updated on that.”

The victims

Building owners Andrew and Irene Matsis didn’t even know about the “theft” until Sunday contacted them for the story. This seems to contradict the Police calling the offending serious. Surely in serious offending the victims would actually be notified.

“Well since Sunday interviewed the Matsis’ a fortnight ago, senior Police have visited the couple twice. The first time Thursday and again Friday. On Thursday in a press release Inspector Derek Erasmus, said the Matsis’ were now happy for the case to proceed to court, where the matter should be resolved. Sunday spoke to Andrew Matsis just hours ago, he’s happy for the case to go to court but hopes Arie’s name will be cleared.”

On the programme, Andrew says if he knew about the alleged looting he would’ve been angry at Arie for putting himself in danger, not for pinching anything.

Andrew and Irene say they would not have pressed charges if they were contacted by the Police. The interview resulted in the hilarious question: “So… how do you feel about your lightbulbs being stolen?” to which Irene replied: “We do not care about our lightbulbs, he’s welcome to them. And you can tell the Police, I mean we have more important things [to deal with, our] house is falling down and we’re going to worry about light bulbs? No.”

I know stealing is stealing (though is it in this case if the building owners say he is welcome to the light bulbs, abeit after the fact?), but common sense dictates there is a better use of court time and money than to make an example out of someone who offended as a result of a documented disability, who has an unblemished criminal record, and who has already served jail time just because he took a couple of lighting fixtures.

Andrew Matsis: You said you never had any other history of doing anything like that before?
Arie Smith-Voorkamp: No.
AM: First time with the Police?
ASV: Yes.
AM: And they make a court case. What a waste of money.

What do you think? Is there no excuse for looting, no matter the situation?

Image credit: Me