• Kyodo


The mother of Sakura Moriyama, a missing girl from Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture, contacted police twice before the 11-year-old disappeared on Monday, fearing her daughter might have been falling prey to a stalker, investigative sources said on Thursday.

According to police, Sakura’s mother reported that her daughter had been followed by a silver car near their house before her disappearance.

The 11-year-old girl has been missing since leaving school on Monday.

Okayama Prefectural Police are checking video recordings from cameras mounted on taxis and buses, in hopes that the car seen several times near Moriyama’s house might be the same as one seen Monday close to where the girl was last spotted.

She was last seen at around 4:30 p.m., talking to a young man, reportedly wearing glasses, who was standing on the street near a silver car. She was spotted about 100 meters from her school, on her way home.

Police said they were trying to identify the owner of the car, based on information from witnesses who told investigators they had seen a similar silver car parked near Moriyama’s house before.

According to the police, Sakura’s mother reported the suspicious car and its license plate number to officers at the Kurashiki Police Station in early May, after Sakura was followed by the car. She contacted police again in early June to report that her daughter might have been followed a second time. The officers advised her on steps she could take to protect her daughter, after which no more reports were filed, police said.

Investigators said the woman bought her daughter a GPS mobile phone so she could keep track of her location.

Following her daughter’s disappearance, the mother confirmed that the phone was 2 km northeast of their home, in the opposite direction the girl normally takes to get home from school.

The tracking system indicated that from evening into the night on Monday the phone stayed within a 100-meter radius.

According to police, the phone appeared to have been switched off or taken outside the coverage area at around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Some 100 officers were mobilized Thursday to search for the girl.

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