Neighbors in the apartment complex where a 23-year-old man suspected of abducting a Saitama girl lived said on Monday they were mystified he could have held the girl inside.
Kabu Terauchi, who was taken into custody the same day, moved into the apartment in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward in February from Chiba, investigation sources said. The girl from Asaka, Saitama Prefecture, now 15, had been missing since March 10, 2014.
Police said Terauchi’s apartment was in an area about 300 meters from Higashi-Nakano Station, where the girl was found and taken into protective custody Sunday.
Several residents in the complex said they had not had much contact with him and were surprised to hear the girl had been held in Terauchi’s apartment. None of them noticed any suspicious activity.
A woman in his neighborhood recalled bumping into the suspect and greeting him but not receiving a response. She also noted that he would often leave the lights on.
According to residents of the neighborhood, a road in front of the building where the victim had allegedly been imprisoned since February is often used as a shortcut to nearby Ochiai Station on the Tozai Line in Shinjuku Ward.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if someone walking past the building heard someone screaming (in the apartment),” said a 68-year-old woman who lives in the neighborhood.
As authorities continued to search the suspect’s home Monday morning, curtains in the first-floor apartment remained closed. Police officers were seen leaving the three-story building with cardboard boxes and plastic containers.
Meanwhile, a man from Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, who introduced himself as Terauchi’s father, said in a telephone interview with Kyodo News that he was shocked to hear about his son’s alleged involvement. The father apparently had not spoken at length with his son in some time, noting he needed to check in on Terauchi.
According to several residents in the area where the suspect’s parents live, his family moved into their apartment several years ago and had not since developed any strong ties to the neighborhood.
“I don’t really know them; When they moved in, I thought they were just like anybody else,” an elderly woman who lives nearby said.
Meanwhile in Asaka, a representative of a local support group that had helped the victim’s family gather information on the girl’s whereabouts offered to continue to aid the family.
“We will continue to hope that their lives can return to normal,” said the representative, a former head of the Parent Teacher Association at the girl’s school.
The man, one of several volunteers who aided the family, had canvassed the streets for information on the then junior high school student.
“I’m glad we’ve continued doing this for the past two years,” the man said. “I believe the fact that we didn’t give up created a mysterious power (that helped find the girl),” he said.
Earlier this month, the girl’s junior high school held its graduation ceremony for her class.
“We wish you will come back again safely and spend time together,” read a message the girl’s classmates had written in the class yearbook.
At the graduation ceremony, one of the girl’s classmates addressed her in a speech, saying that while she was not there, she was still remembered.
“Today we’re graduating with our hearts full of memories that we have created together as classmates,” the representative said.