Police said Friday they have arrested a pair close to conservative critic Susumu Nishibe, who died in January of an apparent suicide at the age of 78, on the suspicion that they helped the former TV host kill himself.
The suspects are Tetsugaku Kubota, 45, an employee at a subsidiary of the Tokyo Metropolitan Television Broadcasting Corp. (Tokyo MX) who used to direct a TV program hosted by Nishibe, and Tadashi Aoyama, 54, Nishibe’s long-time friend. Both men have confessed to the charges, police said.
“I wanted to be of help with respect to his view of life and death,” Kubota was quoted by police as saying.
Aoyama told police: “I thought I owed it to Nishibe who had supported me for more than 20 years.”
Nishibe, who hinted at his intention to kill himself in recent written work, was found in the Tama River in Tokyo’s Ota Ward on the morning of Jan. 21 and later confirmed dead at a hospital. He is believed to have drowned.
His body was tethered by rope to a nearby tree and was partially held by a safety belt. He also had a small bottle inside his mouth and a suicide note was found on the riverbed. Kubota reportedly told police that the bottle contained a kind of powder, and police are trying to identify the contents.
Investigators had surmised that someone else might have been involved in the incident because Nishibe had limited use of his hands due to an impairment, making it difficult for him to commit suicide unaided.
Police believe that early on Jan. 21 the men prepared the items that Nishibe used to take his own life, drove him to the riverbank, and then helped him bind himself with a safety belt and dive into the river.
“The evidence suggested that someone was involved in his death, but I wouldn’t expect him to ask his friends (to help end his life),” Nishibe’s 49-year-old daughter, Satoko, told reporters Friday in front of her home in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. “I feel sorry as it seems my dad made them do that.”
On the evening of Jan. 20, Nishibe parted with his daughter in Shinjuku Ward, saying he was planning to meet someone. Surveillance camera footage taken in Shinjuku captured Nishibe walking with Kubota in the early hours of Jan. 21.
Kubota said he obtained the rope and the flashlight last year in preparation.
Aoyama, meanwhile, revealed he had taken the safety belt from his workplace.
Police believe that Nishibe might have made his plans known to his friends and asked the pair to help him.
According to the broadcaster’s website and other sources, Kubota, while working at a subsidiary of Tokyo MX, directed a television program in which Nishibe discussed current affairs with guests. Nishibe deeply trusted Kubota, according to the sources.
Aoyama was the head of Nishibe’s study group and also appeared as a guest on his program.