National / Crime & Legal

Suspect in kidnapping of 12-year-old Osaka girl tells police he 'saved a child who needed help'

Kyodo

A man under arrest for allegedly kidnapping a 12-year-old girl in Osaka and confining her in his Tochigi home has told police he “did the right thing,” investigative sources said Monday.

The suspect, Hitoshi Ito, 35, became acquainted with the girl via social media around Nov. 10. and they decided to meet in a park in Osaka four or five days later.

After being missing since Nov. 17 from her home in Osaka, she showed up Saturday at a police box in Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, more than 400 kilometers away. Ito was arrested by Osaka Prefectural Police later that day.

The suspect reportedly told police he “saved a child who needed help.” Before she disappeared, the girl had told others she didn’t like her home or school, according to investigative sources.

Regarding how she spent the past days at Ito’s home, the girl said that food and bathing were restricted during the time she was confined, according to the sources.

“It was around one meal per day and one bath every two days,” the girl was quoted as saying by a police official.

After getting acquainted with the girl on social media, the suspect sent a message asking the elementary school sixth grader to come to his house in Oyama, according to the police.

Ito also said in the message that another girl had been in his house for about six months and he wanted the girl from Osaka to be “a conversation partner” for her, the police said.

When the girl escaped her confinement Saturday and appeared at the police box, located about 750 meters from the man’s house, she was not wearing any shoes. She told a police officer that she had “fled from a man’s house” after “becoming scared” and that there was another girl there.

Osaka Prefectural Police transferred Ito to its headquarters on Sunday afternoon, and searched his house.

He is suspected of abducting the girl from the park in Osaka on Nov. 17, and confining her in his home despite knowing she was a minor.

The 12-year-old girl was last seen at her home that day and local police had mobilized around 360 personnel to look for her.

Police found the girl’s smartphone, which was turned off with the SIM card removed, during a search of Ito’s home.

The elementary school girl told police that the man had taken away her phone and shoes, and that she managed to escape while he and the other girl, whom investigative sources identified as a 15-year-old girl from Ibaraki Prefecture, were sleeping.

The 15-year-old girl’s family had reported her missing to police in June, according to investigative sources.

Ibaraki Prefectural Police said Sunday that they had visited Ito’s residence in July and questioned him on a voluntary basis, but could not confirm the presence of the junior high school girl at the time.

The girl has now been reunited with her family. The elementary school girl was returned to Osaka on Sunday morning and reunited with her mother, police said.