Kidnap suspect handed to state

Vast debts allegedly led ex-civil servant to abduct girl

OSAKA — Police Friday turned over to the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office a 51-year-old man who was arrested Thursday on suspicion of kidnapping an 8-year-old girl in December and demanding a 42 million yen ransom from her family.

Hisao Kawabata, a private security guard and former employee of the Ibaraki Municipal Government, owed more than 40 million yen at the time he kidnapped Sayaka Teranishi as the girl walked home from school, police sources alleged Friday.

Police arrested Kawabata just hours after questioning him on suspicion of holding the Ajifu Elementary School third-grader captive for 42 hours before releasing her unharmed.

Investigators suspect that Kawabata had been contemplating the crime since last summer while he was still an employee at the municipal government, which had advised him to voluntarily leave the job because of his heavy debts to consumer loan companies. Police found that Kawabata bought a mobile phone with a prepaid card in Osaka’s Kita Ward in March 1999, which he allegedly used to contact the girl’s parents.

Sources said Kawabata has denied the charges.

Police were led to the suspect by one of his acquaintances, who notified investigators that Kawabata had dropped hints about being involved in the crime, the sources said.

Police began questioning Kawabata on Thursday morning after the girl identified him as her kidnapper. They believe he acted single-handedly in the kidnapping for want of money.

Kawabata was hired by the Ibaraki Municipal Government in 1972 and worked in the national pension, asset tax and other sections before leaving the job shortly before he allegedly kidnapped Sayaka on the afternoon of Dec. 20 as she walked home from her school in Settsu, Osaka Prefecture.

Police said they have confiscated from Kawabata’s home materials such as adhesive tape and gloves that are believed to have been used in the crime.

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

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 the girl up at a restaurant near their house, police said.