French court jails Chilean for murder of Japanese ex-girlfriend

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Nicolas Zepeda (centre) was first sentenced in April last year to 28 years in jail for the premeditated murder of Narumi Kurosaki. (AFP pic)

VESOULS: A French appeals court today jailed a Chilean man for the murder of his Japanese ex-girlfriend in 2016.

Having lost in the lower and the appeal court, Nicolas Zepeda’s legal team swiftly announced that he would take his case to France’s highest appeals court.

Zepeda was first sentenced in April last year to 28 years in jail for the premeditated murder of Narumi Kurosaki, then aged 21, in December 2016.

The 33-year-old has claimed throughout the appeals trial this month that he is innocent.

“I am not a murderer,” Zepeda said again this morning before the jury started deliberating.

However, the appeals court upheld his conviction and the 28-year jail term after five hours of deliberation, as the 33-year-old stood, head bowed, in the courtroom.

Kurosaki’s body has never been found.

But prosecutors said all the evidence pointed to him being the killer of the scholarship student.

They called for him to be sentenced to life and permanently barred from France once his sentence had been served.

Kurosaki arrived in the eastern French city of Besancon in the summer of 2016 to learn French. She was last seen on Dec 4.

Zepeda, with whom she had broken up two months earlier, was the last person to see her alive.

According to the prosecution, Zepeda arrived in France from Chile the same year. He killed Narumi, probably by suffocating or strangling her, before disposing of her body in the woods or the nearby Doubs River.

On Tuesday, public prosecutor Etienne Manteaux spoke of the Chilean’s “wounded male pride” and “sick jealousy”.

He said Zepeda could not bear the fact that Kurosaki had left him and cut him out of her life by forming a new relationship with Arthur Del Piccolo, a student from Besancon initially suspected of her murder but quickly cleared.

The lawyer of Narumi’s family, Sylvie Galley, said Kurosaki had become a victim of a “toxic relationship”.

Zepeda’s lawyer Renaud Portejoie has argued that Narumi’s death could have been an accident. He says his client and Narumi could have fought, leading to a fatal accident of her hitting her head on a radiator in her room.

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