Online message feud led to girl’s murder

Kyodo

An 11-year-old girl suspected of murdering her classmate at an elementary school here has told police that the conflict arose from instant messages they had been sending each other over the Internet, investigative sources said Wednesday.

Satomi Mitarai, 12, bled to death in a study room at the municipally run Okubo Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon after her neck was cut open with a cutter knife. The 11-year-old, a close friend, was taken into custody by police.

The girl was quoted as saying she summoned Mitarai out of their homeroom classroom with the intention of killing her.

The girls each had a Web site and often used their personal computers to communicate via text messages, Sasebo board of education officials said.

Police are examining the messages for a motive, they said.

The local child consultation office in Sasebo decided at a meeting the same day to send the case to a family court, which will decide whether to initiate a hearing over the juvenile case after examining the cause and background of the incident.

Office staff quoted the girl as saying that Mitarai had written something she “did not like” in a message. The girl said they had an argument after she asked Mitarai to stop sending such messages, they said. She said she began to dislike Mitarai after the argument, they said.

The girl was taken to the Sasebo branch of the Nagasaki Family Court later in the day before being sent to a juvenile classification home while the court probes the case.

Police sources said the girl has repeatedly told investigators that she is sorry. They said she has remained relatively calm during questioning.

Police at Sasebo Police Station said the girl was questioned between 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

They said she was given snacks during a break, but did not eat them. But for dinner, she had a bread roll and juice, they said.

The girl went to bed at 10:30 p.m. and slept at the police station in the company of two female staffers. She woke up at 7:50 a.m., police said.

The elementary school summoned students’ parents to a meeting Wednesday morning to explain the incident, school officials said.

Okubo Elementary School Principal Eiko Desaki told a news conference later Wednesday that she was sorry for allowing the incident to happen.

“Something that should not have happened at a school, which should be a safe place (for children), did happen,” she said. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart to Ms. Mitarai and the general public.

“I have attached importance on moral education, but I feel that everything I had been telling (the students) has all been brought to nothing.”

The girls’ homeroom teacher said they had been good friends who both liked to use computers.

Seventeen of the school’s 187 pupils were absent Wednesday. Local education officials said they would have a clinical psychologist at the school every day to counsel the children if necessary. Teachers would also be given individual counseling sessions, they said.

Juvenile criminals under 14 in Japan are subject to the Child Welfare Law and cannot be punished under the Penal Code. Police are obliged to send juvenile suspects to a local child consultation office, which decides whether to send the case to a family court or place them in a special juvenile facility.