• Kyodo


A 19-year-old was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for his role in the lynching of a company employee in a Tochigi Prefecture forest in December.

In the ruling, the Utsunomiya District Court also condemned the police for handling the case in a way that triggered the murder.

The parents of the victim, Masakazu Sudo, also 19, of the town of Kaminokawa, have accused Tochigi Prefectural Police of ignoring their repeated requests for an investigation when their son disappeared.

Tochigi police have compiled a report admitting negligence in the case. The parents have refused to accept an apology offered by police officials over the case.

The parents also said they were unhappy with the ruling, telling reporters that they want the accused to be hanged.

The accused, a resident of Utsunomiya whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, conspired with two other youths to strangle Sudo with a necktie in a mountain forest in Ichikai in the prefecture and bury his body there on Dec. 2, the court said.

“The acts of the accused were premeditated, were extremely self-centered and leave no room for leniency,” presiding Judge Kenichi Hiruma said.

The two other youths are being tried separately.

In October, the youths abducted Sudo, a company colleague of one of the three. They drove him around in their cars and forced him to borrow more than 7 million yen from consumer-loan firms to cover their entertainment expenses, according to the court.

They tortured him to scare him into obeying their orders, pouring boiling water over him and exposing him to fire and pesticide sprays, the court said.

The accused decided to kill Sudo about two months after kidnapping him, at the time fearing that the police had started investigating the case, Hiruma said.

On Nov. 30, when Sudo made a call to his father’s cellular phone, a police officer answered, identified himself and spoke with Sudo. The 19-year-old abductor, who was with Sudo at that time, was surprised to learn that the father had consulted with the police over the son’s disappearance.

On Dec. 2, another police officer placed a call to the kidnapper’s mobile phone, causing him to fear that he might be arrested, the ruling said. The accused then ordered his two accomplices to kill Sudo.

Sudo’s parents, after attending the first trial hearing March 14, told a news conference that Tochigi police ignored their requests to look into the abuse the victim was suffering.

After their son disappeared, the parents learned he was involved in trouble and had incurred debts from a finance company. They took this information to the police.

But an official at the Ishibashi station of the Tochigi police force who met the parents ignored their requests, telling them their son was responsible for the money he had borrowed and even suggesting he could be buying stimulants with the money, according to the parents.

“If the Tochigi police had acted properly, my son would not have been killed,” the parents said in a statement.

Tochigi police initially insisted they had acted properly. But on Saturday, a senior official of the force visited the parents’ home to offer an apology for their “inappropriate response” to their requests.

However, the parents rejected the apology and demanded a full explanation of the police’s actions.

Shiro Hirohata, chief of the prefectural force, admitted Monday the victim might not have been murdered if police had acted promptly.

The National Police Agency also released a report Thursday on its investigation into the Tochigi force in response to the case, concluding that the officers had acted improperly.

According to the NPA report, Tochigi police ignored the information that Sudo had suffered injuries at the hands of the accused, and failed to take action after learning the license plate number of the vehicle in which his tormentors were driving him around.

Hirohata told the day’s session of the prefectural assembly, “We were trapped in a prejudice that the victim was only a runaway, and it was truly regrettable that we were unable to respond to the repeated requests of the parents for an investigation.”

Hirohata admitted his own responsibility over the case as a person in a position to guide the operations of the entire Tochigi force.