THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
November 24, 2019 at 14:10 JST
OSAKA--A 12-year-old girl reported missing the week before from her home in Osaka turned up seeking help at a police station on Nov. 23 in Tochigi Prefecture after a man allegedly lured her to his residence there.
Osaka prefectural police announced that the man, Hitoshi Ito, 35, a resident of Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, was arrested on suspicion of abducting a minor the same day.
The girl was reunited with her mother in Osaka Prefecture on Nov. 24 after being transported by car to the prefecture after leaving Tochigi Prefecture the night before.
The mother burst into tears while holding her daughter, according to Osaka prefectural police.
Police believe Ito took the girl, a sixth-grader at an elementary school in Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Ward, around 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 17, despite knowing that she is a minor, and forced her to stay at his home until 10 a.m. on Nov. 23.
But the suspect, whose occupation is unknown, denied the allegation.
“I took the girl to my home, but abducting her was not my intention,” Ito reportedly told police.
According to police, the suspect began exchanging messages with the girl on a social networking site around Nov. 10.
In one of the messages, he asked her to come to his home, which is hundreds of kilometers from Osaka.
“There is a girl who came to my home half a year ago to live. I would like for you to become her companion. Would you like to come to my home?” Ito asked, according to police.
Ito traveled to Osaka on Nov. 17 to meet the girl at a park near her home after they agreed to do so during an exchange on Nov. 14 or Nov. 15.
Ito took her to his home by train after that.
When Tochigi police took her into custody on Nov. 23, she had left his home around 10 a.m. that day while he was asleep. Then she headed to a police station about 1 kilometer away to seek help and arrived there around 1:30 p.m.
“I ran away from the home of a man who appeared to be 30 years old,” the girl was quoted by a police officer as saying. “There is another girl in his home.”
The Osaka girl showed no signs of injury or health problems, police added.
When she showed up at the police station, she was shoeless and wearing black outerwear and navy trousers.
The girl told police he took her smartphone, and she had no idea of her location. She could not find her shoes as well, she added.
“I became scared,” police quoted her as saying.
After identifying the location of his home, police officers took the other girl, 15, into custody after Ito and the girl emerged from the residence around 4:20 p.m. on Nov. 23.
The Osaka girl went missing after her mother gave her breakfast at their home around 7 a.m. on Nov. 17.
Osaka prefectural police had been searching for the girl after releasing her picture and name nationwide from Nov. 19.
The girl’s smartphone has been turned off since she was last seen.
Ito was living with his mother at their two-story house in a residential area.
The man is one of three brothers in the family, according to a neighbor. His father passed away many years ago and his brothers had since left the home.
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