American Patricia Wu-Murad missing in Japan

Patricia “Pattie” Wu-Murad (60) is originally from Storrs, CT.  She lived there with her husband Kirk who she married in 1990. The couple have three children, including an adult daughter Murphy, who lives in Singapore.

Pattie retired from her job at United Technologies in the past few years – some reports say 2020, another says 2022.   I believe she was an avid world traveller and since her retirement she had hiked in Spain, France, Egypt and Jordan.  Pattie and Kirk had made plans to celebrate their 33rd anniversary with a hike in Spain in May 2023.  In March 2023, she travelled alone to Japan – it was her third time in the country. 

Japan is a relatively safe country.  It has one of the lowest homicide rates, recording 0.2 homicides per 100,000 people in 2020, compared to the United States which recorded 5.3. Robberies in Japan similarly have an incidence of 1.2 per 100,000 people, a tiny figure when compared to France (43.8), Germany (43.2) and the United States (81.4).

By early April, she had been in Japan for around a month.  On the night of April 9, 2023, she stayed at the Mandokoro hostel which is in the Nara Prefecture (relatively close to Osaka).

There are some good reviews of the hostel online.

The hosts were welcoming and friendly even when I don’t speak Japanese. I arrived late as I got a little lost coming down from Miura toge and the host was waiting outside looking out for me. The room was clean and futon was warm. The dining area had kotatsu too. Food was nice and adequate and shower room had hot bath ready for my use. The weather forecast for the next morning was rainy and I was apprehensive about hiking the Obako toge in wet weather. The hosts offered to send me to Omata, my next accomodation via their car. The one way journey took 2hrs. I am so grateful to them for their kindness and hospitality.

Pattie was in the process of hiking the Kumano Koto trail.    This info about the trail is from Lonely Planet:

The Kumano Kodō is not one route but a network of trails through the deeply forested mountains, with no official start or end point and no prescribed hiking order. Moderate to strenuous hiking options last a few hours to several days, taking in some of Japan’s top ‘power spots’ – temples, forests and waterfalls thought to enrich the soul.  

The whole trail is around 70kms or 45 miles, so I think she had been chipping away at different parts of it.  She was due to finish the hike on April 13 and had made plans to meet friends in Osaka then.

I believe she was planning to cover around 11 miles on April 10.  She checked out of Mandokoro at around 7am.  The innkeeper said that he pointed out the trailhead to Pattie and she got on her way.  The hike should have taken Pattie around 7-9 hours.

Pattie had made reservations at another guest house for the night of April 10, and when she had not arrived there by 8.15pm, she was reported missing to police.

A search effort was initiated the following day, on April 11, which was a Tuesday.  26 police officers searched the area and used helicopters.  The search wound down on Friday April 14, because authorities said they had more limited resources on the weekend.  

The innkeeper spoke to the media about the situation:

‘I don’t understand why someone with so much experience would get lost on such a simple trail,’ the innkeeper said.

‘The ‘case is a strange one from the start. 

‘In our village, we have no experience with incidents, so I don’t think any of us knows what to do.’

Pattie’s family in America were notified by the US Embassy about her being missing on April 14.  They hadn’t been worried previously as Pattie had forewarned them that she was in a remote area and may be out of contact for a bit.  

They sprang into action and travelled to Japan to conduct their own search for Pattie. A GoFundMe raised over $200k for the search effort.

We have been pleading with local authorities to continue the search, but unfortunately, we have had zero luck. We now need to take matters into our own hands, hire a private search and rescue mountain crew (est. $10,000), fly out to Osaka (est. $5,000), and begin looking for her ourselves. Additionally, the cost of hiring a helicopter for aerial search (a highly important resource to cover as much ground as possible) is roughly $1,600 per hour.

The family provided many updates via the GFM.

This update was posted on April 18, 8 days after Pattie vanished.

Pattie planned to be in Osaka on April 13th and 14th. She was also supposed to meet up with a couple close to the family in Ryozen-ji Temples on April 16. Our family friends went to the location hoping she would show up but after waiting for a few hours, walking around both temples, and showing Pattie’s picture around, they came out empty handed.

Our private search and rescue team was deployed early morning on April 16 and have so far come up empty but will be continuing their efforts. The past 48 hours they have searched areas where individuals are more likely to get lost, fall from heights, or get swept up by the nearby river. At this point the private search and rescue team believe, “that a very irregular situation occurred on April 10.”

Other information to note: the last known text message exchange with Pattie was with me, Murphy. I received a message on Sunday, April 9 @ 8:02 AM (JST) and responded 40 minutes later and the message sent through. The earliest known text message that was not delivered to her phone was from a family friend on Wednesday, April 12 @ 2:53 AM (JST).

A photo was found of Pattie with an Australian man and the innkeeper.  The Australian left to hike the trail after Pattie left and he said he did not see her at any point.  

There was a camera at a post office on the trail and Pattie was also not seen in any footage there.

From April 19-22, Japanese police looked into Pattie’s internet history, credit card purchases and any social media posts that may have offered a clue as to her whereabouts.  Nothing seemed to come from this investigation.

On April 23, the family gave this update about their private search:

Mountain Works, the private search and rescue group we’ve hired, has been on the trail every day since April 16th. They have been our greatest asset on the ground since we heard of Pattie’s disappearance. They have shown extensive knowledge of the terrain and are able to search in areas off the trail the police are not able to reach. During the first few days, they walked the length of the Kohechi trail and looked in high probability areas where she may have slid or fallen off the path. They also checked nearby waterfalls and streams in case she was lost or injured and found her way to a source of clean water. The majority of their search in the first few days took place on the second half of the trail. They explained, majority of fallen or lost hiker cases occur on the descent from the Miura-toge peak. Unfortunately, they were unable to find any trace of Pattie and continued planning and strategizing with the family to explore other areas off the path. After coming up empty handed on April 20th, the team started considering lower probability areas further away from the trail itself. With their success rate, they started to worry an incident occurred as opposed to an accidental fall or injury.

The innkeeper told TheMessenger News:  ‘I am worried about whether she got lost at the start. And I’m more worried that maybe someone drove by and abducted her. All of us in the village are worried about her. We are all waiting for her return.’ 

The family have spoken about their frustration with the way the search was conducted by Japanese authorities:

Somehow, my sister Murphy (a 27 y.o. Basketball coach) has been tasked with running the whole search and rescue operation on the ground; when clearly, she (nor any of us) are experts in SAR. She has become the de facto point-person for the entire operation. With her living in Singapore, she was in a similar time zone as my mother and the first person to touch down in Japan. Meaning all information was fed through her for the crucial first days of the missing persons case. Now, we have government officials telling her she is the point person on this case because she handled herself so well in those first few days. This is criminally insane. She has government officials asking her to create itineraries so that people just do their jobs every day. Mind you, the missing person is her own mother, and she is expected to keep a level-head and stay logical with all these people. It’s extremely frustrating. And to her credit, she has been extremely gracious throughout this process. The privacy laws are insane. The red tape is astronomical. She’s playing the strongest soldier, and it’s clearly overwhelming for us all but for her the most.”

On April 29, the family gave another update.  They said their search teams had been in the area with cadaver dogs and nothing had been found.  By this point, they had covered hundreds of miles over hundreds of hours and not one piece of evidence had been found.  

They also said:

-Phone Data: Apple does not keep last location data after a certain amount of time. We missed our window of opportunity to retrieve information from Apple since my family was unaware of her disappearance until April 14. My mother was using an Esim while traveling in Japan and we were able to login to her account to see how much data she had left (about 2GB). We were also able to determine which Japanese mobile phone companies have a contract with her Esim. We are still pushing to get this information! Another avenue we have explored is contacting Meta and Whatsapp to retrieve any location data they may have.

-All hospitals, jails, and morgues have been checked and accounted for

-We have put in a request to check any and all cars with front end damage that have been to a repair shop since April 10

-Unfortunately, my mom is the only person in our family who does not have a smart watch or google account

-There are currently no suspects.

On May 1, the family received information that three trail runners were in the area on the day that Pattie vanished.

This same group of athletes were spotted on the post office camera towards the bottom of the trail 3 hours later at 11 am. Based on this pace, they would have passed Pattie on the ascent to Miura peak. However, all three trail runners confirmed they never saw her.

This has led many people to believe the likelihood she made it onto the correct trail is significantly lower than we originally thought. There is a path directly across the main trail head that we have been focused on over the last 3 days. Although there is a sign that says “Not Kumano Kodo” at the beginning of this route, we also discovered multiple white banners tied around trees that said “Kohechi Trail” in orange letters. These banners were used for a trail running event back in October of 2022. Coincidentally, the day after we found these banners, two trail maintenance workers were taking them down.

There were reports from other hikers in the area at the time that a Japanese man had asked them to go to his home for tea and to teach him English.  Kirk spoke to one of the hikers and said “She said it made her feel very uncomfortable.”   Police tracked down this man.  It turns out he was not targeting solo female hikers, and instead was confronting any man, woman, or couple that seemingly spoke English. His alibi on April 10 was confirmed and was relatively far from the village where Patricia went missing.

The final update on the GFM from the family was on June 4.  May marks the start of typhoon season in Japan. Most typhoons hit Japan between May and October with August and September being the peak season.   This means that the conditions would be very hard for searching.

The family posted that the search for Pattie ended on May 30. 

Kirk said “We’re certainly not giving up. But with typhoon season and running out of money…hopefully something comes up. We’re not going to let it become a cold case; it’s certainly slowing down, though.”

To anyone who donated even a penny to our funds, thank you. To everyone who sent myself or my family heartfelt messages along the way, thank you. To all the communities that gave my family strength during this time, thank you. To our family friends who were in Japan at the time of Pattie’s disappearance and played a pivotal role in the initial days of organizing this entire ordeal, thank you. To the local police for bringing resources outside of their jurisdiction to help aid in our search efforts, thank you. To all of our local and international volunteers, thank you. To the men and women that put everything on hold to fly out and tackle the unforgiving terrain to help find Pattie, thank you. To our extended family that worked behind the scenes running social media, getting our story out, and helping us garner support from US government officials, thank you. To Mountain Works, Hora and Yamada, for putting the most substantial amount of time out on the trail over the past 50 days, thank you. To our new friends turned family in Totsukawa, who provided support directly to myself and my family, thank you. We are deeply indebted to everyone’s kindness and generosity.

And finally, to Mom, thank you. All of these people came together because of the profound influence you have had on our family and the impact you have had on so many different people around the world. In a time of chaos, thank you for reigniting everyone’s faith in humanity. Thank you for instilling in us the strength and resilience to keep moving forward each and every day without you by our side. Thank you for bringing us together with such incredible people, you have shown us the true essence of why you love these trips so much.

We love you Mama. Thank you for being you.

Kirk also spoke at this time about difficulties with getting Pattie’s cell phone data. The telecommunication companies have said they are unable to track Patricia’s E-sim because it is not a Japanese number.”

“There’s got to be something,” Kirk said. “Cell phones are always searching out the nearest tower even if you’re not using your phone. If her phone was on, up until the battery died, there should be a tower that we can reference and we could pinpoint the search a little bit more.”


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