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Murder trial heard friend, boyfriend concerned when Kogawa stopped texting

The day Natsumi Kogawa was last seen alive, she was supposed to meet with a new Canadian friend who had promised to get her a job at a Japanese restaurant where his cousin worked.

Derek Manhas was going to pick up Kogawa at her North Burnaby homestay on Sept. 8, 2016, at 5:30 p.m., later changed to 6:30 p.m. They were planning to walk the Seawall and go to Miku near Canada Place so she could fill out a job application.

But the message the 30-year-old Japanese student sent to Manhas, 35, confirming their 6:30 p.m. meeting was the last time he ever heard from her.

When Kogawa didn’t show up, Manhas looked for her between her home and the nearest SkyTrain station, texting her along the way before finally giving up and going home.

A few hours before that planned meeting, Kogawa was captured on CCTV video walking with William Schneider west on Hastings Street toward Stanley Park.


Japanese student Natsumi Kogawa seen walking with William Schneider on Sept. 8, 2016. Schneider is accused of her murder.

RCMP /

PNG

She had just bought a mickey of vodka at a liquor store and some chips and crackers at the Dollarama store, both not far from Miku.

Two weeks later, Kogawa’s body was found in a suitcase on a lot of the old Gabriola Mansion, and the old Macaroni Grill, in the West End of Vancouver. The next day, Schneider was arrested in Vernon.

Schneider, an unemployed 51-year-old who at the time was living in a shelter and collecting welfare, has been charged with her murder and with interfering with human remains.

He has pleaded not guilty to both charges at his B.C. Supreme Court trial in front of judge and jury.

Manhas, who met Kogawa through mutual friends in mid-July 2016, told court he was immediately concerned about Kogawa’s no-show on Sept. 8.

That weekend he went hiking out of town and when he returned and realized that other friends hadn’t heard from Kogawa, he called police to report her missing.

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That evening, Jay Vergara, Kogawa’s boyfriend, also called police to report her missing after Kogawa hadn’t returned any of his texts or calls since they last communicated shortly after midnight on Sept. 8, 2016.

Vergara testified that he travelled to her Burnaby homestay on Sept. 12, 2016, to try to find her.

“I thought maybe she was sick, something had happened with her phone,” he said. “I was panicking and I was knocking on her door.”

Vergara said Kogawa “studied a lot to perfect her English” and wanted to find a part-time job and to extend her visa to allow her to remain in Canada because she “loved” it here.

He also said she was learning to play the ukulele.

Manhas described Kogawa as “happy, calm, peaceful, nice, genuine.”

Both men said she never exhibited any medical, emotional or mental problems and didn’t take any drugs, prescribed or otherwise. Vergara said she drank beer but didn’t drink vodka.

On Thursday, Crown will call as its witness Schneider’s brother, Warren Schneider.

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