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Man pleads innocent to 2017 murder of Vietnamese girl near Tokyo

Kyodo

The former head of a parents association at a school in Chiba Prefecture pleaded innocent Monday to murdering a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl who attended the same school.

As his trial opened at the Chiba District Court, Yasumasa Shibuya, 47, denied killing Le Thi Nhat Linh.

“All (the allegations) are wrong,” he told the court. “I am not involved in the case. I am innocent and plead not guilty.”

Shibuya is accused of bundling Linh into his car on the morning of March 24 last year and sexually assaulting her before strangling her and abandoning her body near a drainage ditch in Abiko, Chiba Prefecture.

At the time of the murder, Shibuya headed the parents group at the girl’s elementary school in Matsudo, also in Chiba.

Prosecutors are basing their claims against Shibuya on blood and saliva samples taken from his minivehicle and camper van that matched Linh’s DNA.

Shibuya’s defense team countered that the blood and saliva may have been left before the murder as Linh had ridden in Shibuya’s vehicles before the incident. His lawyers also said the investigative authorities may have deliberately planted DNA samples from both Linh and Shibuya.

Linh was on her way to school to attend a ceremony marking the end of the academic year when she went missing.

Le Anh Hao, her 35-year-old father, told reporters: “I am furious. If he is really the criminal, it is unforgivable.”

The prosecutors told the court Monday that from around 3:30 p.m. to the evening of the day when Linh went missing, Shibuya’s minivehicle traveled near the site where her school bag was found.

They said that video taken by Shibuya’s dashboard camera at the time of the incident was erased in April last year.

Shibuya refused to speak about the allegations, which also included sexual assault, abduction and abandoning of her body, during the inquiry, according to investigative sources.

The trial is set to conclude June 18 after a total of 10 court sessions.