National / Crime & Legal

Police arrest 35-year-old man after missing Osaka girl, 12, is found in Tochigi Prefecture

Kyodo

A 12-year-old girl in Osaka, who had been missing for a week, was taken into police custody in Tochigi Prefecture after she ran away from a man whom she claims had kidnapped her and confined her at his home. She didn’t appear to have sustained any injuries.

Police later arrested Hitoshi Ito, 35, an unemployed man of Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, for allegedly kidnapping a minor. Investigators also took a 15-year-old girl into custody after they found her at Ito’s home.

Police believe the 12-year-old girl, who liked to play games online and communicated with her friends via Twitter, became acquainted with Ito via social media around Nov. 10.

Ito sent a message to her asking her to come to his house, saying there was another girl who had been staying at his house for about six months. They appear to have decided around Nov. 14 or 15 on meeting at a park in Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Ward, according to investigators.

The man allegedly met the girl at the park on Nov. 17 at around 10:35 a.m. The girl told police that they took trains together but she apparently had not been told where she was going.

“I didn’t intend to kidnap her,” Ito was quoted as saying by police.

According to investigative sources, the girl showed up at a police box in Oyama, some 430 km from her home in Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Ward at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. When Ito came out of his home later in the day, police asked him to voluntarily come in for questioning. He was subsequently arrested.

When she came to the police box and asked for help, she had no shoes on although it was raining and she didn’t have her smartphone. She reportedly told police that her smartphone was taken. “I became scared and went to a police box while Ito was sleeping,” the girl reportedly told police.

The girl had been living with her mother, older sister and brother. On Nov. 17, she had breakfast with her mother at around 7 a.m. but when her mother woke after a nap at 11 a.m., she was gone. Her siblings didn’t realize she was gone, either.

Her mother tried to call her on her smartphone just after 11 a.m. but couldn’t reach her since it was switched off, and text messages sent by her mom went unread.

Her mother reported to police around 10 p.m. and on Tuesday police released a photo of her. A total of some 360 police officers were searching for her whereabouts.

Before the girl went missing, she had confided to people she was acquainted with that she hated school and also her home.

The girl was reunited with her mother Sunday in Osaka. The 38-year-old mother issued a statement Sunday that she was thankful that the girl was safely back.

The 15-year-old girl found at Ito’s house is a junior high school student from Ibaraki Prefecture. Her family reported to police in June that she went missing. She was also reunited with her family, according to police.