Missing-couple suspect arrested

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Missing-couple suspect arrested

Police announced Wednesday that the ex-girlfriend of the man who went missing with his pregnant wife in Busan on May 28, 2016, was arrested in Norway last August as the prime suspect behind the couple’s disappearance. The ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of justice are now working together to extradite the suspect.

The disappearance gained national attention and was featured last February on SBS’s “We Want to Know the Truth.” The missing wife, who married the man in November 2015, was last caught on CCTV returning to their apartment on the 15th floor in Suyeong District, Busan, at 10 p.m. on May 27. Her husband returned home five hours later. No footage of them leaving home was caught by any of the 22 CCTV cameras installed in the apartment, according to the SBS documentary.

Police began investigating the case from June 2, 2016, when family members reported the disappearance, but quickly noticed anomalies. For example, colleagues of both the missing husband and wife received texts from them saying they would not be able to go to work that day. Colleagues of the wife, who acted in theatre, also testified that the text from her wasn’t written in her usual style, and that the husband picked up the wife’s phone on the morning after their disappearance, though he quickly hung up.

Police found no evidence of a home invasion or signs of a struggle inside. The couple’s mobile phones, wallets, ID cards, passports and laptops were gone. On June 2, police traced the husband’s phone to Gijang County, Busan, before losing the signal. The wife’s phone was last traced to Cheonho-dong, Seoul, 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) from the husband’s later in the day, before losing the signal.

According to testimony from acquaintances, the female suspect, who is in her 30s, wanted to marry the missing husband but could not due to her family’s protests.

She then began tormenting him and his new girlfriend as they planned to wed, even after she married another man. After the missing man married, he maintained contact with the suspect, even having a secret phone wholly dedicated to calling her. By this time, the suspect had divorced her husband, remarried and was living in Norway.

Police pointed to the suspect’s movements around the time of the disappearance as evidence of her possible involvement. She arrived with her second husband to Korea in May 2016, but left for Norway two weeks before her planned departure date in early June. But during that time, she never used her credit card or contacted her family. Police discovered that just before returning to Korea, she had persuaded her mother to send her 10 million won ($8,979) for a “trip to Africa.”

After singling her out as the prime suspect in August 2016, police used an internet phone to question the suspect in Norway. The suspect hired a local lawyer, and in March, police requested that Interpol add her to their wanted list. Norwegian police finally arrested her in August, and Busan Nambu police will lead the investigation once she is repatriated.

But police fear it will be difficult to prove the charges against her.

“If the suspect cannot successfully prove her alibi in the days immediately preceding and following the disappearance,” a police source said, “we will still question her using evidence we have gathered so far.”

The source added, “The suspect’s arrest warrant has already been issued, and we will detain and investigate her as soon as she is repatriated.”

The investigation will focus on finding the missing couple.

BY LEE EUN-JI, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

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