• Kyodo


A man arrested in connection with the murder of a 13-year-old girl in Osaka Prefecture was stopped by Tokyo police and found to be in possession of handcuffs and a stun gun two days before her body was discovered, investigative sources said Wednesday.

Osaka police believe Koji Yamada, 45, who was arrested Friday on suspicion of dumping the body of Natsumi Hirata in a parking lot in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, on Aug. 13, may have used the items in the alleged murder, they said.

Yamada is also suspected of abandoning the body of Ryoto Hoshino, 12, who was with Hirata the day they both disappeared, in Kashiwara, Osaka.

According to the sources, the suspect was previously convicted of luring a junior high school boy into his car in 2002 in Neyagawa, Osaka, binding him with duct tape and handcuffs, and robbing him of cash and a mobile phone.

Tokyo police stopped and questioned Yamada around 12:15 a.m. Aug. 11 while he was driving a car with a male passenger in the Akihabara district. Aside from the stun gun and handcuffs, a syringe was also found in a bag of his, prompting police to conduct a drug test, the sources said.

His urine sample tested negative and Yamada told the police the stun gun was for self-defense, leading the police to release him three hours later after deeming that he had not violated any laws.

The police asked Yamada to hand over the stun gun voluntarily but he refused, the sources said.

Because the stun gun appeared old and did not have a battery inside, Yamada likely did not intend to use it immediately, the sources said.

Yamada’s posts on his Facebook page said he was in Tokyo on Aug. 10 and 11. The radiation decontamination worker in Fukushima Prefecture was off duty between Aug. 9 and 16, according to the sources.

Investigators have been unable to reconstruct what happened to Hirata and Hoshino after they were captured on security camera near Neyagawashi Station around 5:10 a.m. on Aug. 13. Footage from another camera nearby showed the minivan that police believe was used by Yamada. Police believe he abducted the pair immediately afterward.

Later that morning, Yamada visited an acquaintance at a prison in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, and then purchased duct tape at a convenience store in Kashiwara around 12:40 p.m., the sources said. Some time later that day, he is confirmed to have driven around the mountainous area where Hoshino’s body was found.

At around 11:25 p.m. that day, roughly 15 minutes after a minivan was seen leaving the parking lot where Hirata’s body was found, Yamada was seen on security camera footage inside the elevator of his apartment in Neyagawa.

No fingerprints of the two children have been found in Yamada’s minivan, but police are conducting DNA tests on a small amount of blood found inside the vehicle.

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