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Search for missing tourist called off
RCMP say Atsumi Yoshikubo did not want to be found, presumed dead

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 5, 2014

RCMP has called off a search for a missing Japanese tourist and say Atsumi Yoshikubo, 45, is now presumed dead even though her body has not been found.

NNSL photo/graphic

The search for missing Japanese tourist Atsumi Yoshikubo, caught here by a video surveillance camera has been called off. - NNSL file photo

That information was contained in an RCMP news release issued Tuesday morning.

Const. Elenore Sturko, an RCMP spokesperson, said the information was released only after the woman's family had been contacted in Japan.

An intensive police investigation has determined that Yoshikubo arrived with a plan to go into the wilderness alone and become a missing person and took steps to avoid being found, said Sturko, who would not divulge how or when police arrived at that conclusion.

"The investigation file remains open in the hopes of finding her remains," Sturko said. "But I won't be able to disclose any evidence found during our investigation."

Sturko would not characterize the woman's presumed death as a possible suicide.

"She is a missing person who is presumed dead," Sturko said. "Foul play in not suspected."

The investigation now falls under the responsibility of the NWT Coroner's Office and the RCMP will assist, Sturko said.

Cathy Menard, the chief coroner, said her office does not have an active file on Yoshikubo.

"She's still listed as a missing person, so until if and when her body is found we are not investigating," Menard said. "I do hope her body is recovered so the family and everyone else involved can have closure. But until a body is recovered we are all in limbo."

Yoshikubo was believed to have been travelling alone when she arrived Oct. 17.

She was first reported missing to RCMP 10 days later by staff at the Explorer Hotel where she had been staying.

Staff told police that she never checked out and her belongings were found in her room. It was then discovered that she failed to make her scheduled flight home to Japan on Oct 26.

Police said the belongings found in her room were left in a state that suggested she had intended to return.

They released two photos of the missing woman at that time. One of them showed her in front of the Explorer Hotel. Police made a public appeal for anyone who had information on her whereabouts or any other details that could help in the search for her.

The ground and aerial search for Yoshikubo had originally centred around Jackfish Lake on the outskirts of the city. Police said she had been spotted walking along Highway 4 in that area on Oct. 22. At that time, police were using a helicopter and dogs to look for her. They were assisted by volunteers from Yellowknife Search and Rescue as well as the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association. Searchers had focused on areas off the Ingraham Trail, near the Yellowknife Ski Club and Giant Mine. At the same time, a helicopter was seen flying over both Jackfish and Frame lakes.

Police issued several more photos of Yoshikubo on Oct. 28, taken while she shopped downtown. As concern for her safety grew, Japanese media learned of the woman's disappearance.

At least three U.S.-based Japanese television news crews came to the city to cover the search for her.

Those reporters were on-hand as RCMP held a news conference Oct. 30 to update the media on the investigation. At least one media outlet reported that her family was deeply concerned for her safety and was shocked by her disappearance.

Some media reports indicated Yoshikubo had been a doctor back in Japan.

Reporters from a Japanese media outlet told Yellowknifer Tuesday that they believed she wasn't a practising physician at the time.

On Oct. 31, police said they were expanding their search to an area further north from the original search site. They said they received a tip that someone had seen her further down on the Ingraham Trail. Police reported that their investigation showed she may have be travelling further north into the wilderness.

At that time, Sturko said they were searching remote tourist areas out that way, including Cameron Falls. Police also employed an aircraft with a heat-seeking device.

Sturko could not say whether any of her belongings were ever found other that what was discovered in her hotel room.

She also couldn't say whether police had tried to uncover her mental state before she came to Yellowknife and during her stay here.

"That's all part of the evidence," Sturko said.

The people of Yellowknife were very concerned about Yoshikubo's disappearance and generous in their volunteer efforts and their co-operation is greatly appreciated, said Sturko.

She also mentioned how a large number of Yellowknifers had expressed their concerns for Yoshikubo's safety through social media. She could not say exactly how many officers and civilians had been involved in the search.

The RCMP are asking all wilderness travellers to report any information that they believe would help locate Yoshikubo.

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