National / Crime & Legal

Saitama student, 14, arrested over alleged murder had spoken to school about problems with victim

JIJI, Kyodo

City education board officials said Monday that a 14-year-old boy charged with the fatal stabbing of a classmate in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, on Friday, had been consulting with junior high school staff about issues with the victim — a reversal of an earlier explanation by the school that the two had no trouble with each other.

The boy, arrested Saturday on suspicion of attempted murder and later sent to prosecutors on murder charges, told investigators that he had a quarrel with the 13-year-old schoolmate, Kotaro Hongo, over a textbook when they were studying together at the suspect’s home on Friday for the school’s end-of-term exam.

The boy explained that the two began to quarrel on the day of the killing after he asked Hongo if he had hidden his textbook. Hongo denied the claim, and the two got into a fight, the boy told police.

Investigators believe that the two classmates had problems before the incident, and the quarrel over the textbook on that day might have triggered the attack.

Following the arrest Saturday, the principal of the junior high school told a news conference that there had been no reports of any trouble between the two second-year students.

But on Monday, education board officials said the boy had spoken to the school about problems with Hongo, and the school “had taken measures” to deal with it. Officials did not reveal what kind of problems the boy raised or what measures the school had taken.

“We need to look into whether the school’s response was appropriate,” said education board official Masayuki Idei. The two boys were in the same class and both belonged to the same club at school, and were usually on good terms, Idei said.

On Friday afternoon, Hongo was found bleeding at the entrance of the suspect’s home in Tokorozawa.

An autopsy found that Hongo died of hemorrhagic shock after being stabbed in his chest, police sources said.

As there were multiple wounds to the victim’s upper body, the Saitama Prefectural Police believe the suspect had a strong intent to kill him, the sources said.

On Monday, the school held a meeting with all students to explain about the incident. About 60 students met with counselors after expressing anxiety following the incident, school officials said.