A high school student and budding actress was stabbed to death Tuesday evening in front of her home in the Tokyo suburb of Mitaka and a man she told authorities earlier in the day had been stalking her was later arrested and confessed.
The police opened an investigation into whether they responded properly.
Saaya Suzuki, 18, had gone to the police with her parents Tuesday morning to say she was being stalked by the suspect, who was later identified as Charles Thomas Ikenaga, 21. The police subsequently tried three times to call Ikenaga on his cellphone to issue a warning, but he didn’t answer.
Suzuki had earlier told her teachers that Ikenaga had threatened to kill her. When they went to a police station Friday in Suginami Ward, they were told Mitaka police should handle the case.
Suzuki was confirmed dead at a hospital after sustaining several stab wounds to her neck and abdomen, the police said.
Ikenaga, who was arrested after fleeing the scene, reportedly confessed to the attack and was quoted as saying he obtained a knife beforehand and discarded it while fleeing the scene.
The police also believe Ikenaga dumped a bag and a bloodstained jacket that were found near an apartment building about 500 meters from the crime scene.
“I waited for her near her home with the intent to kill her,” Ikenaga was quoted by the police as saying.
Witnesses had reportedly told the Metropolitan Police Department that they saw Ikenaga wearing what appeared to be a purple turban. About 90 minutes after launching a manhunt, police apprehended him on a street in Mitaka about 600 meters away from the site. They said he was wearing bloodstained pants.
Suzuki had appeared in a movie and was pursuing a career in show business while continuing to attend school.
According to the police, Ikenaga told investigators that he met Suzuki after making contact through Facebook.
Suzuki is believed to have been attacked when she came home shortly before 5 p.m.
Her school principal told reporters that Suzuki had reported to her teachers last Friday and Monday that she was “scared” because Ikenaga was stalking her and hanging around her house.
Suzuki said Ikenaga had threatened to kill her, according to the principal.
A teacher at her school sought help about the stalking case from a nearby police station last week, and the case was referred to the Mitaka Police Station since that was where Suzuki lived.
The principal expressed sadness over Suzuki’s death, saying she was a “cheerful student who loved English.”
“If someone threatens to kill you, you cannot predict when you will be attacked,” stressed Kyoko Hasegawa, a lawyer from Hyogo Prefecture who helps female victims of violence. “A high school student is not capable of protecting herself.
“We won’t be able to prevent these incidents unless the police take prompt action anytime someone reports (being threatened),” Hasegawa said. “Police should question the alleged stalker or provide temporary protection for the victim and victim’s family.”
An official from an entertainment agency that had previously managed Suzuki said they discovered her when she was in the fifth grade. She began her entertainment career while in elementary school, took acting lessons after school and appeared in a film a few years ago.