Four girls missing since the weekend were found unharmed Thursday at a condominium in Tokyo’s Akasaka district, police said.
A man who was later identified as 29-year-old Kotaro Yoshisato of Yokohama was found dead in the condo, they said.
It is believed that Yoshisato committed suicide, as he was found sitting on a chair with a tentlike structure made from plastic sheets covering him and a charcoal burner at his feet, police said. He had no external injuries and appeared to have been dead for more than 10 hours when he was found, they said.
According to investigators, the girls met Yoshisato in front of JR Shibuya Station at around 1 p.m. Sunday, and were told that he had part-time cleaning jobs for them. He and two of the girls got in a cab which took them to the condo, which is under short-term lease, while another man later took the other two to the room. The second man left without entering, police quoted the girls as saying.
Police said they are treating the incident as one of abduction and confinement and are now searching for the other man. The girls were quoted as telling investigators the other man kept calling Yoshisato “shacho,” a title usually used to address a company president. Yoshisato’s case will be turned over to prosecutors with the suspect listed as dead, the police added.
The girls, aged 11 and 12, were taken to a hospital to be treated for shock and dehydration. They were later moved to Shibuya Police Station where they were reunited with their parents.
According to investigators, one of the girls escaped from the condo and sought help at a nearby flower shop. She was barefoot and her right wrist was red and swollen. Shop attendants let her use the phone to alert police.
Officers dispatched to the condo found the other three girls in separate rooms with their arms and legs handcuffed to iron dumbbells and plastic tanks filled with water, apparently to prevent them from escaping.
The girls, who attend a school in Inagi, western Tokyo, disappeared after telling their families that they were going to the Shibuya shopping district. Dozens of police officers were mobilized and to comb the Shibuya area after they vanished.
According to investigators, Yoshisato approached one of the girls in Shibuya early this month and offered her a part-time job that paid well. After cleaning a room she was taken to, he gave her 10,000 yen, they said. The girl later told her classmates about the job offer, and three girls decided to join her, police said.
The vice principal of the girls’ school voiced relief that they had been found, but said that both the student body and the local community had been shaken by the developments.
The current school term is scheduled to end Friday and the final classes finished at noon Thursday, after which students were taken home by their parents.
A 63-year-old woman who lives in the area said she was surprised at the turn of events, as she initially believed the girls had gotten lost.