Parents group head arrested over murder of Vietnamese girl in Japan

Parents group head arrested over murder of Vietnamese girl in Japan

A vehicle carrying a man arrested in connection with the murder of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl arrives at Abiko police station near Tokyo on Friday. (Kyodo photo)

CHIBA, JAPAN – A murder investigation following the discovery of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl’s body in Chiba prefecture last month took a shocking turn on Friday as police arrested the head of a parents’ association at the victim’s school in connection with the case.

Police arrested Yasumasa Shibuya, 46, for allegedly abandoning the body of Le Thi Nhat Linh, a third-grade elementary school pupil living in Matsudo, Chiba.

While they said Shibuya has not responded to questioning about the allegation, investigative sources said his DNA matched a sample collected by police in the grass field where the victim’s naked body was found in Abiko, also in Chiba, on the morning of March 26.

Shibuya, who has told investigators he runs a real estate business, was known by locals as a caring father who took turns with other parents to stand on roads and keep an eye on pupils on their way to and from school. His home is only about 300 metres from the victim’s.

A local education board said Shibuya had regularly supervised children as they walked to school but he did not do so on the morning the girl went missing.

After the murder, Shibuya, as head of the parents group, had been collecting donations to help Linh’s family return to Vietnam, according to school sources.

“I’ve seen him. I’m in shock,” Linh’s mother said in Vietnam where the family held the girl’s funeral.

“I was waiting for news of an arrest for a long time,” the girl’s father Le Anh Hao told Kyodo News, adding he thought he might gain some sense of relief after the arrest.

Police suspect Linh’s body was dumped in the grass field after she was strangled elsewhere as there were no signs of a struggle in the field.

She went missing on March 24 on her way to school, approximately 600 metres from her home. Her body was found two days later near a river about 10 kilometres from the school, leading police to believe she was abducted by someone immediately after she left home.

Linh had been living with her parents and younger brother in Matsudo since moving from Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture, in December 2015.

At home, locals reacted sharply to the news, with many saying it gave them chills.

“I can’t trust anyone anymore,” said a woman whose daughter goes to the same school. “I have to protect my daughter with my own hands.”

“It is sad, but we never know when or where a similar incident will happen. We must always be braced for this,” said Masahiro Nishihara, 68, who heads a crime prevention association in the area.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida expressed his condolences during a meeting with Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung at the Foreign Ministry.

“The incident is extremely painful. I would like to offer my deepest sympathy,” Kishida said.

The Vietnamese minister said he is “thankful for the minister’s sympathy and condolences.”

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