Now 22, Kobe killer to be turned loose Jan. 1

A 22-year-old man who murdered two children in Kobe in 1997 when he was 14 will be fully discharged from a medical reformatory on Jan. 1, the Justice Ministry announced Friday.

The man was released from the institution in suburban Tokyo on a provisional basis in March, and his probation ends Dec. 31, ministry officials said.

It is unprecedented for the ministry to formally announce when probation has been completed for someone who has been rehabilitated for a juvenile crime.

The man, whose name has not been released, strangled and decapitated 11-year-old Jun Hase and bludgeoned to death 10-year-old Ayaka Yamashita. He underwent rehabilitation and education programs for more than six years at the Tokyo institution.

“It was a grave and extraordinary incident that has drawn strong social interest, and we determined that we need to respond to that interest within possible limits,” said Tsutomu Suzuki, chief of the Supervision Division at the ministry’s Rehabilitation Bureau.

According to the ministry’s explanations to the victims’ relatives, the man has been living with a guarantor at an undisclosed location “other than the Kinki region” since the provisional discharge.

He has found a part-time job, and was elevated to a full-time employee in August, the ministry told them earlier.