• Kyodo


The Saga Family Court has ordered that psychiatric evaluations be conducted on the 17-year-old youth accused of hijacking a bus for 15 hours last month and fatally stabbing one of the passengers, court officials said.

The tests, to be conducted over a period of three months through Sept. 15, are to determine whether the suspect was mentally competent at the time of the May 3-4 hijacking.

Based on the results, the family court will decide whether the youth should face a criminal trial or undergo rehabilitation and treatment, possibly in a juvenile reformatory.

A Hiroshima psychiatrist who earlier conducted a preliminary test on the boy said he was not able to reach a firm conclusion and called for a full-scale test to determine his mental condition.

The Juvenile Law allows the family court to decide whether a suspect between the ages of 16 and 19 facing serious charges should be tried in court as an adult.

Judge Katsuki Nagatome informed the boy of the court’s decision during closed proceedings Friday, attended by the boy himself, his parents and lawyers.

The boy was arrested May 4 in Higashi-Hiroshima after allegedly commandeering a Fukuoka-bound bus from Saga Prefecture the day before.

He is accused of stabbing to death Tatsuko Tsukamoto, a 68-year-old passenger, and injuring four others during the ordeal.

Prosecutors in Hiroshima, who earlier questioned the boy and declared him mentally competent, urged that he be tried in a criminal court as they turned the boy over to the Hiroshima Family Court, which later sent him to a family court in his hometown of Saga on June 7.

The prosecutors say the boy has at least the minimum mental capacity to take responsibility for the crime, saying that he acted in a calculated manner as he kept the bus passengers at knifepoint.

The suspect was quoted by police sources as saying he wanted to go to Kobe and create a “boy’s kingdom” there. A 14-year-old boy was arrested in Kobe in 1997 on suspicion of killing and beheading an elementary school student.

The youth commandeered the bus just hours after being temporarily released from a national rehabilitation center in Saga, where he had been hospitalized since March for psychiatric treatment, according to police.

On Saturday, the boy’s parents visited Tsukamoto’s home in Saga and apologized to her widower, Taira Tsukamoto, who later told reporters, “It’s true that (the parents) apologized to me, but I don’t want to think about the incident.”

The parents have also written letters of apology to the other victims of the incident, in which they said the boy “keeps his mind closed” to them, according to sources close to the case.

“We are fully aware that we cannot apologize enough for (what our son has done,” the parents say in the letter, adding that they are “leaving the (judgment on the boy) to the court.”

Yutaka Sakamoto was one of the passengers aboard the bus. Sakamoto, 56, of Kohoku, Saga Prefecture, said, “I understand their sentiment (of wanting to protect their son). Still, my anger toward the boy will not change and I want him to fully compensate for what he has done.”