An elderly Japanese man suffering from dementia who was reported missing in March 2012 was finally reunited with his family on Sunday, April 27 after 2 years of spending life in custody as he was unidentified. The sad part of this story is that the identification could have been made just a few days after, had the Hyogo Prefectural Police matched the report the family filed with the available missing persons data from other prefectures.
According to information from the Hyogo Prefectural Police, the man had last been with his family in the prefecture on March 8, 2012. He went missing and the family reported the incident an hour later at a nearby police station. As per procedure, the police station faxed the man’s information – including a recent photo provided by the family – to fire departments, welfare facilities and taxi companies asking for any information about the man.
Three days after the man’s disappearance, the Osaka Prefectural Police located him a few kilometers from where he had gone missing. Due to the man’s dementia, he could not be identified, as he could not communicate properly to provide the information. The Osaka Prefectural Police then followed the same missing person procedure, sending all the information they had with a photo attached to all prefectural police headquarters nationwide. Hyogo Prefectural Police got the information and sadly failed to match the two reports, even though the photos and descriptions of the man’s clothing in the two reports were almost the same.
The break in the case came after the case about the man was reported in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper and on TV via NHK on April 19 this year. The man’s family learned about him from the news and immediately contacted local authorities. The family’s lawyer, Tetsuo Yamauchi, is now meeting with the family with regards to what could be done legally. “It is unfortunate and I sympathize with the family. Considering the circumstances, he should have been identified in a few days,” Yamauchi said. “The family followed procedures correctly, so this should not have happened.”