NAGOYA EXPLOSION PROBE

Hostage-taker allegedly wanted to kill branch head

Kyodo

A man who killed himself and two others Tuesday by setting off an explosion in a Nagoya office building is believed to have been trying to murder the branch manager of the courier Keikyubin Co., according to police sources.

The sources said Wednesday that before and after releasing seven of eight hostages, Noboru Beppu, 52, poured what is believed to have been gasoline on the floor of the office and told branch manager Kunio Yoshikawa to remain there.

Beppu was demanding unpaid wages for July, August and September as he holed up inside the office.

However, investigators believe his motive was not money but a grudge against the company, given that the amount of money he demanded was only 250,000 yen and that he resisted releasing the hostages even after getting the wages he said had been owed to him, according to the sources.

Beppu had been employed as a contract worker for the firm.

The explosion and resulting fire killed Yoshikawa, 41, police officer Tatsuya Murase, 31, and Beppu, and injured 43 people, including police officers, firefighters and bystanders.

At the time of the hostage release, he dispersed the flammable liquid from one of two 18-liter polyethylene containers that he had taken into the Keikyubin office with him Tuesday morning, the sources said. He reportedly had sprayed the liquid in the other tank soon after he stormed into the office.

Police have learned that Beppu purchased 144 liters of gasoline earlier in the morning.

The branch office was responsible for assigning Beppu’s deliveries, sources close to the company said, adding that frustration might have led to his resentment against the branch manager.

Police began combing through the severely damaged office Wednesday morning.

Keikyubin President Kazunobu Murakami denied that the company did anything to incur Beppu’s wrath.

“Our basic policy is to create a partnership with (contract workers), and we hope to continue to run the company in line with that policy,” Murakami said at the company’s headquarters in Nagoya. “I understand that we did not have any trouble that would prompt (Beppu) to hold a grudge.”