National / Crime & Legal

Tokyo man arrested over alleged fatal assault of girlfriend's 3-year-old son

Kyodo

Police arrested a man Tuesday on suspicion of having caused injuries resulting in the death in September of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son, Ryutaro Yamada, in Tokyo.

Yuji Watanabe, 34, the partner of the boy’s mother who lived with them both, had said he found Yamada floating face-down in the bathtub after a short unsupervised period.

But autopsy results showing no water in the boy’s lungs seemed to contradict Watanabe’s account, prompting authorities to investigate whether the man had subjected the child to violent abuse and tried to cover it up as a drowning accident.

Watanabe called the emergency services at around 1:25 p.m. on Sept. 28, saying he had found the boy unresponsive in the bathtub. When ambulance crew arrived at the apartment room, Yamada was found soaking wet, and Watanabe reportedly told them he had performed cardiac massage on the boy.

Yamada was taken to a hospital in cardiac arrest and later regained vital signs, but was declared dead the following day. Police suspect Watanabe caused Yamada’s death on Sept. 29 from internal injuries — possibly sustained due to a blow to the abdomen the day before — at a high-rise condominium in Toyosu where they had been living. The autopsy also found some bleeding at the top of the boy’s head. Watanabe has denied the charges, telling the police, “I didn’t do anything.”

Watanabe, who was on parental leave, had been living with his own son, his girlfriend and Yamada since spring. When the incident occurred, Yamada’s mother was on a business trip abroad, with Watanabe and the two boys in the condominium, according to investigators.

No other external injuries were found on Yamada’s body, but police said they will continue to investigate whether he had been subjected to routine abuse.

No previous reports to police or child consultation centers regarding the boy have been confirmed so far, according to police.