Suspect claims he thought it was fake.

On 21 June workers at a recycling plant in Adachi, Tokyo were given a shock when, mixed in among the refuse that had arrived, they found a human skull and jaw bone. Since bags came from all over Tokyo, there was no telling who the bones had belonged to, so they had to check dental records.

Soon after, they identified the skull as 67-year-old Hideo Murai of Kita, Tokyo. This was corroborated by a bank card with Murai’s name on it that was also found among the trash in the bag with his skull. Naturally, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into the matter and on 29 June arrested the deceased’s older brother, 68-year-old Shoichi Murai, on charges of illegal disposal of human remains.

▼ News report on the arrest

Murai denies the charges, however, and claims that he found the bones in his brother’s room but assumed they were replicas. The brothers were said to have shared the same house in Kita, with Shoichi living on the first floor and Hideo living on the second. Shoichi claims that he had not spoken to his younger brother since at least March of 2017, and was cleaning the room in order to sell it when he found the skull. He added, “I wondered if he was hospitalized somewhere.”

Police searched Hideo’s residence and found the rest of his skeletonized body lying on a bed. According to an autopsy, at least several months had passed since his death, but he was confirmed to have been alive in 2017 when Shoichi claims to have last interacted with him.

The authorities are also looking into a possible cause of death, but reports so far say that there are no signs of violence. There are still dozens of questions surrounding this incident though, most which were asked in online comments about the news.

“Even if it was a replica, why’s he throwing away his brother’s stuff like that?”
“They live in the same house and he didn’t notice his brother died until he was a pile of bones?”
“Why didn’t it smell?”
“Why just the head? Did he see the rest of the skeleton? What’s going on?”
“What a horrible brother.”
“Even if he was reduced to bones, wouldn’t there be stains?”

“Did he try to recycle the skull?”
“I wonder if he’s just in a very, very deep state of denial.”
“Was the skull placed on a table or something that made it look like a replica? If it was lying on the pillow of a bed, ‘replica’ wouldn’t be my first thought.”
“He was probably collecting the guy’s pension. It’s the same old story.”

Sadly, cases where people have left deceased relatives bodies secretly hidden in order to continue collecting pensions or other benefits are not unheard of. However, that also seems like something the police would be able to look into rather quickly, but they haven’t reported anything about pension or welfare payments being misappropriated so far.

On the other hand, people not realizing a sibling they lived with had been dead in the house for years, is also not without precedent. In the end, it’ll be up to the police to untangle this mess and determine if Shoichi needs to be held accountable or was just very confused.

Source:, Yomiuri Online, Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Itai News
Top image: Pakutaso
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