France promises Chilean will be put on trial over missing Japanese student

BESANCON, France - A Chilean national is to be tried in France for the suspected murder of his Japanese ex-girlfriend, with Paris to request his extradition later this year, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Narumi Kurosaki, 21, went missing in December 2016 from her university residence in Besancon, a town near the Alps in eastern France, after having dinner with her Chilean ex, Nicolas Zepeda.

Investigators are convinced she was killed by Zepeda in a jealous rage, but despite extensive searches, her body was never found. Zepeda, who is the sole suspect, returned to Chile shortly after she went missing, before investigators could issue an arrest warrant. He denies any involvement in her disappearance.

Earlier this month, the Besancon prosecutor Etienne Manteaux travelled to Chile with a judge and two police investigators to interview Zepeda, with the announcement made on their return.

"French judicial authorities will formalise an extradition request this autumn which will be presented to their Chilean counterparts," Manteaux told reporters in Besancon.

"Whether he is extradited or not... it is certain there will be a trial at Besancon," he pledged.

So far, Zepeda has not been arrested or charged by the Chilean authorities, with a Chilean judge previously denying a French request to detain and extradite him, citing insufficient evidence.

But Manteaux said the investigators had presented all the relevant evidence during their visit.

"The prosecution believes there are now enough incriminating facts to bringing Nicolas Zepeda to court for the murder of Narumi Kurosaki," he said.

Kurosaki, described as a smiley, gentle individual by friends, started a relationship with Zepeda after they met in Japan but the couple later split.

She moved to Besancon in September of that year to study French. Investigators said Zepeda, who was working as a teaching assistant, had reacted badly to news that she had started a new relationship, posting videos online threatening her.

He had also bought five liters of flammable liquid and matches at a supermarket days before Kurosaki disappeared, and when he returned his hire car, it was covered in mud.

On the night of December 4, Kurosaki was last seen dining with Zepeda at a restaurant a short drive from Besancon, which is in the foothills of the Alps.

He admitted going to her room afterwards for what he said was consensual sex. Later that night, fellow students reported hearing sounds of a struggle and very loud cries at around 3:30 a.m.

But no blood was found inside her room at the university, with Manteaux saying late last year that investigators believed she may have been strangled.

Ahead of the visit, Manteaux said he was hoping to convince the Chileans that the evidence against Zepeda was strong enough to bring charges against him, paving the way for France to file a request for his extradition.

Until now, France has not sent a formal extradition request, with most countries reluctant to extradite their own nationals for trials overseas.

During Zepeda's questioning on April 18, which was carried out by a Chilean magistrate in the presence of the French team, the suspect remained silent but was "visibly shaken by the 95 questions" that were put to him, Manteaux said.

"It is the family's wish, in the first instance, to obtain an extradition that will ultimately see Nicolas Zepeda brought to trial here in Besancon," the family's lawyer Sylvie Galley told reporters.

Manteaux has previously said that either Zepeda would be tried in Chile based on evidence handed over by the French authorities, or that the case would be prosecuted in France with the suspect tried in absentia.