• Kyodo

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A 38-year-old Wakayama man was arrested Saturday on suspicion of confining his 67-year-old mother to their home for seven years, police said.

The unemployed man apparently held a grudge against his mother after he was once referred to a mental hospital, they added. The mother, who was placed in protective police custody, was reportedly weak but her life is not in danger.

According to police, the man ordered the mother never to leave the house without him around April 1994. His name is being withheld due to his record of mental illness and police plan to have him undergo psychiatric tests.

The man and his mother lived in the two-story wooden house in a residential area in the northern part of the city. After his father died in 1988, the family lived on the father’s savings and a pension for widows.

He was held at a mental hospital in Osaka for two months in 1984. Police believe he became angry at his mother after an acquaintance made fun of his record of mental illness.

The suspect reportedly ordered the mother “not to move” from a futon in one of the rooms and she had to ask his permission each time she had to go to the lavatory or take a bath. To prevent the woman from escaping, the man forced her to accompany him whenever he left home, police said.

When police officers entered the room where the woman was being held, she was sitting on a futon surrounded by furniture. The windows were covered with aluminum foil.

Over the years, the man beat and kicked his mother whenever she disobeyed his orders, they said. He only gave her instant food and sometimes refused to give her food for a whole day, they added.

After her release, the mother told investigators that she was afraid to escape because her son had once beaten her very badly. “I had hoped he would get better if I persevered,” police quoted her as saying.

In recent years, neighbors had wondered what had happened to his mother. Some of them subsequently contacted local police and asked them to investigate. The Wakayama Prefectural Police said Saturday evening that no such information had been passed on to the police headquarters.

It was only in mid-April that police, after consultations with local residents, finally began an investigation. An officer visited the house but was unable to see the man or his mother because the house was locked.

The woman’s ordeal came to an end last week when her sister, who lives in Tokyo, telephoned the house and talked to the woman, who complained that she had been forbidden to leave the building.

On Friday night, a group of police officers and welfare officials visited the house again. When they asked the son where his mother was, he answered that she was inside. The son was served an arrest warrant Saturday morning for alleged confinement.

For years, all the storm doors in the house had been closed and only one window was kept open. “I didn’t know that she was at the home,” a local resident said, expressing shock after hearing the news.

For the last 15 years, local people have been worried about the odd behavior of the suspect, who played the drums late at night and chased cars on nearby roads.

One of the neighbors recalled how the suspect stormed into his house about seven years ago, claiming that he had been gossiping about him.

“We had an argument and police officers were called in. I remember the apologetic expression on the mother’s face,” the man said. It was immediately after the incident that the mother disappeared from sight, he added.

“I thought she had gone to a relative’s house. I am glad she has been rescued,” he said.

A company employee who lives nearby said, “I told police quite a long time ago that the mother had disappeared.” His wife was also critical of the slow response from the police, saying, “Are the police not empowered to do anything unless something happens?”

The woman said she saw the man and his mother return home in a car one night about six months ago. “I was surprised that the mother was at home. All the neighbors were worried about her, but also wanted to stay out of the matter,” she said.

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