National / Crime & Legal

Man arrested in connection with gruesome killing of Kobe girl

Kyodo

Police arrested a 47-year-old man on Wednesday in connection with the death and dismemberment of a 6-year-old Kobe girl who went missing nearly two weeks ago.

The man, Yasuhiro Kimino, was living near the wooded area where police found Mirei Ikuta’s head and other severed body parts.

Police uncovered the body parts Tuesday inside six plastic bags that were left roughly 100 meters east of her home in the city’s Nagata Ward. A one-piece dress and sandals identical to those worn by the elementary school student were also found inside the bags. Some parts of the body are still missing.

Police also discovered a hospital card bearing Kimino’s name and cigarette butts inside the bags. DNA test results on the cigarette butts revealed a match with Kimino.

The suspect has so far exercised his right to remain silent about the allegation, according to the police.

On Wednesday, Mirei’s family released a statement saying “We are doing our best to accept the reality that she is gone.”

Kimino, who had worked in the Ground Self-Defense Force for two years more than two decades ago, lives in a housing complex about 30 meters from the bush and about 100 meters from Mirei’s home.

He moved into his current residence one to two years ago, and has had some recent disputes with neighbors who complained of noises from his residence. He has also been in trouble with the police, according to the residents.

The city’s education board said it will have counselors attend the school where Mirei was a pupil in order to help children cope with her death.

The wooded area where the bags were discovered is located at the top of a slope slightly more than 30 meters from Kimino’s house. Few people pass by the site, even during the day, local residents said.

After the girl’s mother reported her missing, police conducted a search of vacant houses in the neighborhood, but had not ventured into the woods until Tuesday.

The Hyogo Prefectural Police set up a team on Wednesday to probe the suspected murder and abandonment of the body.

According to police, surveillance camera footage had shown Mirei walking on the afternoon of Sept. 11 — the last time she was seen before she went missing. The footage also showed Kimino following far behind her, police said.

Mirei left school at around 2:45 p.m. on that day and apparently visited her grandmother, who lives near Mirei’s home, leaving her school bag there. Police said she was last seen walking alone in a southerly direction from a park around 600 meters southeast of her home at around 5:30 p.m., according to classmates who saw her.

Surveillance footage from another camera had shown the girl walking alone past a nearby convenience store, with an open parasol, at around 3:15 p.m. Mirei was supposed to play with a friend who lives in the same building as the convenience store, but she didn’t show up. The parasol was later found in bushes near the building.

Mirei’s mother reported her missing to police on the night of Sept. 11.

A total of 2,500 police officers have been mobilized to comb through Mirei’s neighborhood, police said.

The bags containing the body parts were found close to the location where Mirei was last seen. That area is halfway between her elementary school and her home.

Police were able to identify the body parts using DNA testing.