• Kyodo


Police arrested a man in Kobe and another in Yokohama early Tuesday on suspicion of kidnapping a 7-year-old boy in Yokohama last Thursday and demanding a ransom of 30 million yen from the child’s parents.

The boy, Toru Akiyama, was rescued unharmed and placed in protective custody in Yokohama at 3:26 a.m. Tuesday — five days after he was kidnapped while on his way home from school.

The suspects have admitted kidnapping the boy and are being held on suspicion of kidnapping for ransom, police said.

One of the suspects, identified as Yuichi Mizutani, a 37-year-old former taxi driver, was located at an inn in Kobe’s Arima hot springs resort Monday night and arrested at 1:50 a.m. Tuesday.

The other suspect, identified as Giichi Horigome, a 55-year-old laundry service agent, was with the boy when the child was found at an apartment in Yokohama’s Kanagawa Ward, just 2 km from the boy’s home. The apartment had been rented by Mizutani, police said.

Horigome was married to an aunt of the boy’s father, Hayato Akiyama, 30, and works for a laundry company run by Akiyama’s father. The aunt divorced him 10 years ago and died three years ago. Akiyama also works for the firm.

Horigome reportedly told police that he seized the boy because he disliked the Akiyama family.

Mizutani confessed that money was his motive for taking part in the kidnapping, police said.

According to police, Mizutani had not paid the rent for the apartment since September but had told the landlord by phone Friday that he would deposit the rent into the landlord’s account Monday.

Police said the boy was rescued when Mizutani gave them directions to the apartment after he was apprehended.

After his rescue, the boy reportedly told police, “I want to see my father and mother and have a cup of cocoa.”

Mizutani was arrested at a bar near the Kobe inn after staff told police that a suspicious man had checked in.

Mizutani, using automated teller machines, withdrew 2.96 million yen of the ransom from a bank account in which he had instructed the boy’s father to place the money, including 990,000 yen withdrawn in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, on Monday, police said.

The amount of money deposited by the boy’s father totaled 7.92 million yen, police said.

The second-year elementary school student was kidnapped in Yokohama’s Hodogaya Ward as he walked home from school with two classmates at around 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, police said.

The kidnapper got out of a white station wagon and offered the boy a ride home, police quoted the boy’s classmates as telling them. The man called the boy “Satoru,” picked him up, put him on the back seat of the car and drove away, they said.

The mother of one of the classmates called the Akiyamas’ home after her child told her what had happened, police said, adding that Hayato Akiyama then alerted them at 3:14 p.m. Thursday.

One of the suspects apparently called the boy’s home at 5:18 p.m. that day, telling the family to prepare 30 million yen by noon Friday in exchange for his release, police said.

The caller also said, “I’ll kill the boy if you fail to come up with the money,” police quoted the father as telling them.

The caller also told Akiyama to obtain a cellular phone and warned him not to notify police, they said.

In subsequent telephone communications, the man told Akiyama to take the ransom money by taxi to Shin-Yokohama Station on Friday and deposit 1.98 million yen into a designated bank account at a branch of a city bank near the station.

Of the total, a combined 1.9 million yen was withdrawn shortly afterward from two ATMs — in Tokyo’s Ota Ward and in Kawasaki — while 70,000 yen was withdrawn Sunday afternoon from an ATM in Yokohama’s Aoba Ward, police said.

Surveillance videos at the first two ATMs showed an individual wearing a jacket, jeans, baseball cap, sunglasses and surgical mask, police said.

The man communicated with Akiyama 48 times, including calls the father placed to his mobile phone, police said. The father was allowed to talk to his son on three occasions Friday and again Monday morning.

The caller ordered Akiyama to put 28 million yen in his car and drive around Kanagawa Prefecture on Friday night, and then told Akiyama that he would call again Saturday.

On Saturday, he told Akiyama to travel by bus, taxi and train around the metropolitan area. The man ordered him to wait at Omori Station on the Keihin Electric Express Railway, but failed to make contact again.

The caller started telephoning Akiyama again Monday morning, demanding that he deposit 6 million yen and threatening to kill the boy. He also allowed Akiyama to hear his son’s voice for the first time in two days.

The man had two prepaid cellular phones, which can be obtained without the buyer providing identification, according to police.

Akiyama and his wife both work for the laundry company run by his father, police said, adding that their son always stopped by the premises after school before heading home with his mother.

Should the suspects be found guilty of kidnapping, they are likely to face prison sentences ranging from three years to life.