The body of a 20 year old Japanese university student was identified by Romanian authorities on Monday, after being found in a suburb of Bucharest. The Japanese Foreign Ministry has confirmed that it is Yurika Masuno, a sophomore from Tokyo’s University of the Sacred Heart, who had gone to Romania to teach Japanese as part of an internship. Police have already arrested a suspect who was seen interacting with Masuno on security camera footage from the Bucharest Otopeni International Airport.
26 year old Vlad Nicolae, a native of the Romanian capital city, was arrested on Saturday but denies his involvement in the murder. Police say the security camera footage shows Nicolae approaching Yurika Masuno at the airport shortly after her arrival, and then getting into a taxi with her. The taxi reportedly went several kilometers in the opposite direction of where Masuno needed to go. It is then believed that Nicolae raped and strangled the girl in the woods not far from the road. Investigators believe the young man spoke english to the Japanese girl and lured her into riding with him by saying that he would help accompany her to where she needed to go.
While it certainly seems the element of a naive young girl in a foreign country was part of what happened, it is also truly sad that the internship organization scheduled her travel in such a poor way. Masuno arrived in Bucharest at night, where she was then supposed to take an overnight train 200 kilometers west to where she would teach Japanese. She was traveling alone and had to go through areas that were known not to be safe after dark. Her internship was arranged by AIESEC Japan, the country’s division of a nonprofit youth organization that offers programs in 110 countries.