YOKOHAMA – Police on Saturday were investigating the murder of a 13-year-old boy after his naked body was found with stab wounds beside a river in Kawasaki.
The body of a first-year student, identified as Ryota Uemura, who attended a nearby junior high school, was found at 6:15 a.m. Friday by a passer-by on a bank along the Tama River, near an area of the city where there are several factories and apartment buildings.
An autopsy found that the victim died around 2 a.m. from hemorrhagic shock due to multiple stab wounds to the neck and body. Many of the neck wounds were inflicted by stabbing and slashing thrusts.
Police also said Saturday they found charred clothes apparently belonging to the victim in a public bathroom in a park near the crime scene.
A local fire station received a call alerting it to a small fire at the facility about 600 meters away, around an hour after Uemura’s estimated time of death. Upon arrival, firefighters found the burned clothes.
As the body was found naked, investigators suspect the clothes may have been burned immediately before or after the killing. They have identified the clothes as those worn by local junior high schools, and strongly suspect they belonged to Uemura.
Police on Saturday continued searching the riverbank for weapons or any other items that may be related to the crime. None have been found so far. They confirmed blood traces on the ground around the area where the body was found. A jacket was found near the body, although it has yet to be confirmed whether it belonged to the victim.
The Kanagawa Prefectural Police is treating the case as murder and set up an investigative team at Kawasaki Police Station. A key focus will be on Uemura’s personal relationships, they said.
As a potential lead, investigators are checking a possible link between the incident and footage recorded by a nearby security camera of a group of people that might have included the victim shortly before his death.
The footage shows a group of people apparently walking toward the place where the boy’s body was discovered. From the footage, it appears the same group of people later walked back toward the direction from where they had come, but with one person fewer, according to investigators.
The crime scene is just a few hundred meters from Minatocho Station on the Keihin Kyuko Daishi Line. It is about 2 km from the residential area where Uemura lived.
Uemura’s body was identified by his mother at about 11:20 a.m. Friday at Kawasaki Police Station.
On Saturday, large numbers of investigators used sticks to probe inside bushes and tall reeds growing on the riverbank, and examined the ground next to the river.
According to a resident of the condominium where Uemura’s family live, the family moved to their unit about six months ago.
“He was a cheerful boy and we said ‘Hi’ to each other a few times,” said the woman, who is in her 40s and would not give her name. “I couldn’t believe this happened.”
The scene is located in an area that is dark at night because there are no street lights there, said a male resident, who added he sometimes goes for a walk past the place where the boy was killed.
“I rarely see people there at night, and I’ve never seen (anything alarming) such as youngsters fighting,” said the man, 78, who asked that his identity be witheld.
Another resident, aged 66, said he saw a large number of police officers on the riverbank Friday afternoon, but only learned what had happened on a TV news report later in the day. “I just hope they arrest the murderer as soon as they can,” he said.