• Kyodo


A 47-year-old woman indicted for shoplifting at a Don Quijote outlet in the city of Saitama in mid-December was served a fresh warrant Tuesday for allegedly starting an arson fire Dec. 15 at the same store.

DNA extracted from saliva found on a cigarette butt left near the site where a minor fire started at the discount retailer’s Omiyaowada store matches a sample taken from the suspect, who was identified as Noriko Watanabe, Saitama Prefectural Police officials said.

Watanabe, an unemployed resident of the city, has been charged with stealing about 520,000 yen worth of goods, including a pair of luxury watches, from the store just before the fire broke out.

She was chased by shop employees while escaping from the store in the confusion of the fire and fled in her car.

Saitama police suspect Watanabe tried to burn the store down by setting fire to blankets in the sleeping goods corner. The fire damaged seven blankets. Nobody was hurt.

The fire took place two days after another apparent arson attack gutted Don Quijote’s Urawakagetsu store, killing three employees.

Saitama police said they will question Watanabe about the fatal blaze. However, an acquaintance told reporters right after the Dec. 15 fire she was with him around the time the Dec. 13 fire broke out.

In the Dec. 15 fire, which was the second blaze to break out at the store in two days, police believe Watanabe used a towel soaked in gasoline to set the fire. Investigators believe she bought the gasoline and towel at a gas station while on her way to the store.

Police also suspect Watanabe may have been involved in the first apparent arson fire at the same store on Dec. 13. That blaze broke out a few hours after the fatal fire at the Urawakagetsu outlet — which is about 7 km away.

In addition, police suspect Watanabe was involved in four other fires that hit city supermarkets on Dec. 13 and 15.

An image of a woman resembling Watanabe was captured by a video camera at the stores, police said.

Tokyo-based Don Quijote has been hit by a series of apparent arson attacks.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Department released images of a middle-aged man captured on a video camera at the chain’s Kanpachi Setagaya shop in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward just before a fire broke out early Dec. 26.

The fire destroyed the upper floor of the two-story structure. All of the roughly 50 customers and 21 employees were safely evacuated.

The man, who appeared to be between 40 and 60 and about 160 to 170 cm tall, was wearing a dark jacket. Images from the video show the fire started in the clothing corner right after he walked away, police said.

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