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The 49-year-old man arrested early Tuesday in the suspected arson attack that killed six people in a jewelry shop Sunday night has admitted dousing his victims with gasoline and setting them afire, officials said.

Kazuo Shinozawa, a former noodle shop proprietor of Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, allegedly fled from the scene with 120 million yen worth of jewelry after killing the six workers at the Utsunomiya branch of Tsutsumi Jewelry Co.

Shinozawa’s evident motive for the arson and murder was to rob the shop of the jewels. He was quoted as telling police that he needed money because he was in debt several millions of yen.

Investigators identified Shinozawa from surveillance camera footage taken of a man fleeing the shop, carrying a sack, at the time of the Sunday evening fire. The arcade where the shop is located has security video monitors.

Police spotted Shinozawa walking with a bag near JR Utsunomiya Station Monday afternoon and detained him for questioning.

He had burns on his legs and other parts of his body, and the bag he was carrying contained about 280 pieces of jewelry, including rings and luxury watches, from the store, police said.

The fire broke out at around 10:50 p.m. Sunday and raged through the 110-sq.-meter first floor of the three-story concrete shop and office before being extinguished more than two hours later.

The charred bodies of the six victims, including manager Kimiko Arai, 49, and five female workers at the shop, were found inside the gutted store.

Police believe he rounded the victims up in the lounge, poured gasoline on them and set them afire. Petroleum residue was detected on their bodies.

Shinozawa is believed to have targeted the shop for robbery, and approached the manager by suggesting plans for a large-lot jewelry transaction. Shinozawa had frequently visited the shop be fore Sunday’s incident, and manager Arai had recently told an acquaintance that he was a “good customer.”

According to police, he told Arai in late May that he wanted to buy tens of millions of yen worth of jewelry, and that he went to the store again around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, shortly before closing time.

He had a bottle of gasoline in his bag when he visited the shop, police said.

Shinozawa told police that he was “talking business” with the victims for more than three hours before he finally killed them. One of the employees called her family about one hour before the fire broke out, saying the shop was having trouble with a customer.

Investigators suspect that Shinozawa kept Arai and the others at the shop under the pretext of doing business, until the shopping arcade eventually became deserted and he thought it was safe for him to flee after setting the shop on fire.

Shinozawa is believed to have driven his own vehicle to a parking lot near the jewelry shop Sunday night. But after fleeing from the scene, he took a cab instead from a nearby railway station to a motel in a town near Oyama, where he stayed until around 11 a.m. Monday, according to witnesses’ accounts.

He was spotted by investigators when he went to the parking lot to fetch his car Monday.

A neighbor of Shinozawa in Oyama said that he lives with his wife and their son, and that he ran an “udon” noodle shop in Oyama until around 10 years ago, when the business failed.

After his arrest, Shinozawa told police that he currently works as a broker for industrial waste disposal.

People who know him said Shinozawa may have needed money to cover his son’s school expenses.

June 4 explosion link

SAPPORO (Kyodo) An explosion occurred in front of a convenience store here six days before Saturday’s explosion that injured 10 people at a festival site in the city, police sources said Tuesday.

The June 4 blast took place around 10 p.m. near the entrance of a convenience store in Sapporo’s Chuo Ward, the sources said, noting the blast shattered the store’s front windows but injured no one.

Police have launched an investigation but have yet to make an arrest, they said.

A nail bomb exploded around 10:35 p.m. Saturday near a garbage collection area at Odori Park in Chuo Ward soon after the Yosakoi Soran Festival ended for the day, the penultimate day of the five-day event.

Ten festival workers who were sorting garbage were injured, one seriously. Police suspect connections between the two cases. As in the Saturday incident, several nails were found scattered near the scene of the June 4 blast.