KOBE — Almost three weeks after the mutilated body of an 11-year-old boy was found here, an eerie quiet has descended on Suma Ward and the neighborhood of Tomogaoka.

Few children play outside and few adults appear on the streets in this district 10 km northwest of the city center, which was developed about 30 years ago as a residential area for commuters to Kobe and Osaka. An intense police and media presence adds to the anxiety. “I’ve lived in this neighborhood in peace for 13 years. I never expected a fearful murder like this would happen here,” said a 48-year-old member of the local women’s association, asking to remain anonymous.

On May 27, the head of Jun Hase, a student at Tainohata Elementary School, was found placed at the front gate of Tomogaoka Junior High School. Inside the mouth was a menacing note taunting police. The following week, a letter threatening more murders was sent to the Kobe Shimbun by Hase’s apparent killer, fueling greater fear among the 2,100-household neighborhood.

“Children always stay with their parents,” the woman said. “After the letter came, even adults don’t go out unless they have an engagement. It’s been very tense.”

According to a survey conducted last week at Suganodai Elementary School, in a neighborhood adjacent to Tomogaoka, 39 percent of 450 pupils said they fear going out and 33 percent feel nervous about staying at home alone. The Suganodai district also borders the neighborhood of Ryugadai, where two elementary school girls were attacked in March. One of them was bludgeoned to death, the other sustained a serious stab wound. The male attacker remains at large, and police have not ruled out a connection with Hase’s killing.

“I don’t let my child play outside,” a mother in her 30s said while returning home from a supermarket in Tomogaoka with her kindergarten-age son. “Instead, we leave this town to have fun on weekends.” On the other hand, an elementary school pupil’s mother said her child goes out and plays with friends as usual, although some mothers watch over them.

Parents now accompany their children to and from school. Pocket security alarms have also been distributed, and foliage in promenades has been cut back.

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