Local resident saw suitcase floating in the water days before it reached the shore.

Located in the center of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Shiga Prefecture’s Lake Biwa is the country’s largest lake. Its scenic coastline, as shown in the photo above, is a soothing sight loved by both locals and tourists alike, but last Friday an 83-year-old resident of the town of Hikone spotted a black cloth suitcase bobbing in the lake’s waters.

On Monday afternoon he saw the suitcase again, this time having washed up on a stretch of the eastern shore where he and a group of volunteer friends were picking up trash and other debris. Part of the material had been washed away, but they could see that there was something inside, wrapped in a plastic sheet. Curious as to what it contained, they unzipped the suitcase, partially unwrapped the sheet, and were immediately revolted to see a lump of discolored, decomposing flesh.

Thinking it might be an animal carcass of some kind, the group contacted the authorities, but when city employees showed up to take a look, they discovered instead that the suitcase, which measured 85 centimeters (33.5 inches) in length contained an unclothed human corpse.

The body was severely decayed, with the majority having skeletonized. A subsequent autopsy determined that the individual has been deceased for at least half a year and was approximately 170 centimeters (67 inches) tall, but the condition of the body has made investigators unable to identify the sex or estimate an age any more specific than somewhere between 45 and 60 years old. A subsequent search of the area where the suitcase was found turned up what appear to be human ankle and finger bones which may have floated away from the suitcase when it lost part of its cover, though tests to confirm if they match the body in the suitcase will need to be performed.

With no visible signs of injury investigators have not yet been able to diagnose a cause of death, and so the investigation is currently classified as a case of illegal corpse dumping, but may progress to a full-blown homicide investigation if foul play is suspected.

Sources: Jiji, Kyoto Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun Digital
Top image: Pakutaso
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