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Foul play whiff in Japanese death

Lucknow, March 14: A 23-year-old Japanese student was found hanging from a tree at one of Varanasi’s ghats this morning.

Police suspect the victim may have been robbed and murdered before his body was hung from the riverbank tree to make it look like a suicide.

“Half his body was touching the ground. He was half in a state of hanging and half on the ground,” was how Shalini Singh, circle officer from Bhelupur police station, described the crime scene at Samne Ghat.

“The cause of death can be ascertained only after the post-mortem, but we suspect murder.”

The police, who had arrived with a dog squad and fingerprint experts, said the documents the Japanese was carrying suggested his name was Amajato Atomo and that he was a resident of Nagasaki. The Japanese embassy has been informed, Singh said.

“We are trying to find out with whom he had come to Varanasi and where he was staying,” a police source said.

Officers said Atomo was a student and had arrived in Delhi on Tuesday, before travelling to Varanasi on the Marudhar Express on Wednesday.

“It is important to know with whom he had spent Thursday and who brought him to the ghat,” an officer said.

Among the contents of a bag lying near the body, which the police have seized, were $10 in cash, a calculator, two cigarettes, a few medicines and a planning calendar besides his passport and other documents.

If he was carrying a rucksack --- as most young tourists do --- it was missing.

Some local people the police have spoken to said they had spotted the victim on the riverbank on Thursday evening.

In February 2012, a German tourist, Raphel Wawrzymiak, who was staying at a lodge in Varanasi, was found dead. The police later said he had died of a drug overdose.

Last year, the district administration had instructed the police to increase their visits to areas around the ghats and the streets frequented by foreign tourists. However, tour guides have been complaining that the police aren’t doing so.

Fake guides and drug peddlers frequent the ghats to lure lone foreign travellers.

The Union tourism ministry recently wrote to the Varanasi police to tighten the security of foreign visitors. But the Tour and Travel Guides Association has alleged in a media release that the police have done precious little.