• Kyodo

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The man arrested over the death of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl in Chiba Prefecture had been seen talking to the victim while he was on patrol duty near her school, investigative sources said Saturday.

Yasumasa Shibuya, 46, the head of a parents’ association at the elementary school attended by third-grader Le Thi Nhat Linh, stood at the same spot in Matsudo on most mornings and was seen exchanging friendly greetings and high-fives with female students, the sources said.

Police suspect Shibuya could have attempted to approach Linh while he was on patrol duty.

While the parents’ association has arranged for several members to patrol for students, Shibuya voluntarily patrolled at a T-intersection near the school, according to the Matsudo city school board.

“Since he patrolled nearly every morning, chances are high that he had met Linh every time,” one of the school board officials said.

His vehicle was also seen driving near the area along the Tone River where some of the girl’s belongings were found, the sources added.

Shibuya is suspected of abandoning Linh’s body beneath the bridge over a drainage ditch in Abiko, also in Chiba Prefecture, between March 24 and 26. He has remained silent about the allegation, according to the police.

But the investigative sources said Shibuya’s DNA matched samples collected by police in the grass field where the victim’s naked body was found on the morning of March 26. Shibuya did not show up for patrol duty on the morning of March 24, when Linh is believed to have been abducted shortly after leaving home.

Local residents continue to grapple with the news that the head of the parents’ association had been arrested in such a shocking case.

“Trust in the local community has been shaken,” said a man in his 80s.

A 65-year-old delivery man said he “can’t understand what (Shibuya) was thinking, as his children also go to the same school.”

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