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OSAKA (Kyodo) Police have arrested the mother of a 9-year-old Osaka Prefecture girl who had not been seen since March and two male acquaintances after one of the two led them to the child’s body buried in a Nara mountain graveyard.

Police suspect that Seika Matsumoto had been abused and that child welfare authorities were not alerted to her plight even though neighbors and her school suspected something was amiss.

Police planned Friday to perform an autopsy on Matsumoto, who was a fourth-grader at an elementary school in Nishiyodogawa Ward, Osaka.

She had been absent from school since March 11, and police started searching for her two weeks ago.

The police arrested Matsumoto’s mother, Mina, 34, her live-in boyfriend, Yasuhiro Kobayashi, 38, and Mitsuhiro Sugimoto, 41, an acquaintance of the two. The three were turned over to prosecutors Friday.

Kobayashi’s confession led investigators Thursday night to the graveyard in Nara Prefecture, where they found the body. The three suspects were later arrested that night.

Police said Sugimoto had been a regular visitor to Matsumoto and Kobayashi’s apartment, and his car may have been used to take the girl’s blanket-wrapped body to the cemetery. She was buried naked.

The mother has claimed she found the girl dead in her kitchen on April 5, but Kobayashi said he found her dead on the apartment’s balcony on April 6, authorities said.

Police suspect Kobayashi had been abusing the girl for some time. Witnesses have told police they saw Kobayashi leave her on the apartment’s balcony almost every day in late March, they said.

According to Tsukuda Nishi Elementary School, a school nurse in January asked the girl about a bruise on her cheek and was told that Kobayashi had hit her. The girl also said she was sometimes deprived of food and sleep. She said her mother did not intervene, they said.

The girl’s homeroom teacher contacted the mother and asked to meet with her, but was refused. The mother made the excuse that she was visiting her grandparents in Wakayama Prefecture.

The Osaka Child Welfare Consultation Center said the school should have reported the suspected child abuse.

Until the end of last year, the girl had lived with her biological father and twin sister and attended a different school.

Tsukuda Nishi Elementary Principal Nobuyuki Horiichi said officials should have visited the home despite the mother’s refusal to cooperate, saying, “It is regrettable that during her absence, we only made contact with the mother over the phone.”

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