NIIGATA – A 7-year-old girl who was found dead on a railroad track in the city of Niigata on Monday had told classmates that a stranger talked to her on her way to school that morning, investigative sources said Wednesday.
Second-grade student Tamaki Omomo is likely to have been killed hours before her body was hit by a train, the sources said, as her body temperature was low and there were few signs of bleeding when she was discovered.
Her body was found after police were alerted by the driver of the train, which struck her at a low speed.
An autopsy found that the girl had been choked to death, the police said.
She left her elementary school with a friend at about 3 p.m. Monday. When she failed to return home by the evening, her mother contacted police.
Bruises on her face suggest that she was strangled some time before she was struck by the train at about 10:30 p.m. As another train had passed along the tracks about 10 minutes earlier without incident, the police believe the girl’s body was placed on the track during that time frame.
The Niigata Prefectural Police are checking security cameras near the railroad track as well as the route from her school to her home in the search for clues.
Her death has sent shock waves through the local community. Yutaka Hasegawa, the principal of Omomo’s elementary school, told a news conference of his “outrage” over her murder.
The Niigata city educational board has sent mental health counselors to the school as some children, mainly Omomo’s classmates, are showing signs of distress.
Teachers and police officers stood by the school gates and on nearby streets Wednesday while parents accompanied their children on their way to school.
“I’ve told my child to be careful after telling him about the case,” said Kayoko Sato, 34, whose son is a third-grade student at the school.
“I am speechless thinking how her parents must feel,” said another parent, who is in his 40s. “I hope the case will be solved soon.”
Fuyuko Jinbo, principal of Omomo’s former kindergarten, said the girl was kind and had a lot of friends.
“I’m sure she had lots of dreams for the future … I can’t believe her life ended like this,” she said. Jinbo added that Omomo liked plants and flowers and would water them even when it was not her turn to do so.
Calling the death of the girl “cruel,” a 65-year-old woman living close to the spot where the body was found said, “Children don’t feel scared even at night because there are streetlights.”
Floral tributes have been left near the railway tracks.
Another woman in her 80s said the area had become brighter at night as the streetlights had been fitted with light-emitting diode lamps. “I hope (the case) will be solved soon,” she said.