Writer pays the ultimate price for his best-seller

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 12:00am

Tapping into growing public concern in Japan over a recent wave of burglaries by locksmiths, Satoru Someya's book Kagi no Seisho (The Key Bible) quickly became a best-seller. It also cost him his life.

Two locksmiths in police custody are expected to be charged with murder over the killing of 38-year-old Someya, who went under the pen-name of Kuragaki Kashiwabara and was famous for exposes on Japan's underworld.

The locksmiths, Keizo Sakurai, 42, and Yoshihiro Kumamoto, 31, were arrested in November last year on suspicion of kidnapping Someya and holding him in an apartment in the Kabukicho entertainment district of Tokyo.

In an earlier book, Kabukicho Underground, Someya wrote about the underworld groups which operate drug, protection and prostitution rackets in the area.

He had expressed fears for his safety before his disappearance. He wrote: 'I may have turned the whole of Kabukicho against me because I have written this book. Many people who gave me information warned me not to go too far, and now I know what they mean.'

Someya's body was found weighted down with chains and diving weights in Tokyo Bay on September 12. The back of his head had been crushed by two blows and he had been stabbed eight times, according to police.

After initially linking his death to Japan's underworld, police began to look at the people he interviewed for The Key Bible.

According to Tokyo police, about 11,000 homes in the city had their locks picked last year, an 81 per cent increase over 2002.

After television shows took up the story, Sakurai started appearing regularly on programmes billed as an expert on lock picking.

Someya and Sakurai initially co-operated on the story, but they later argued and Someya was reportedly planning to publicly criticise the locksmith.