Suspect held in girl’s abduction

Ibaraki security guard accused of demanding 42 million yen

OSAKA — Police arrested a 51-year-old man Thursday for allegedly kidnapping an 8-year-old Osaka girl and demanding a 42 million yen ransom in December.

The man, identified as Hisao Kawabata, a security guard who was formerly employed by the city of Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, is suspected of having held Sayaka Teranishi for 42 hours from the afternoon of Dec. 20 before releasing her unhurt.

Osaka Prefectural Police in the city of Settsu began questioning Kawabata on Thursday morning. He has denied the charges but allegedly hinted at the crime to an acquaintance, sources said.

Investigators searched his house and seized adhesive tape and gloves believed to have been used in the kidnapping.

Kawabata came to the attention of the police as a suspect after an intensive investigation and the girl reportedly told investigators that he resembled the man who took her, sources said.

It remains unclear how Kawabata came to know about the girl’s family.

The suspect was hired by the city in 1972, working in such departments as those dealing with public pensions and fixed asset tax, but resigned shortly before the kidnapping.

According to acquaintances who knew him at the time, he had multiple relationships with women, liked gambling and invested heavily in stocks. Investigative sources said he has accumulated a large amount of debt.

Police questioning focused on his alibi and possible connections to the Teranishi family, sources said.

According to police investigations, a man forced Sayaka into his car at around 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 20 while the girl was on her way home from school, and later wrote a threatening letter and made more than 20 calls demanding a ransom from her parents.

The letter, found stuck to the bottom of a mailbox near the girl’s house, said: “I am holding your child. . . . Children of a wealthy family die early,” according to police.

Sayaka’s father, Isao Teranishi, 37, is an acting section chief at a branch of JA Kita-Osaka, an agricultural co-operative, and jointly owns real estate worth more than 1 billion yen.

Although the girl’s family tried to pay the money on several occasions in accordance with the kidnapper’s demands, the man never turned up.

The kidnapper contacted the girl’s family for the last time on the morning of Dec. 22 to say he no longer wanted any money, telling them they could pick her up at a restaurant near their house.

Sayaka, a third-grader at Ajifu Elementary School in Settsu, was found at a park, some 4 km from her home, around 9:30 a.m. that day, police said.