Japanese school group head arrested over Vietnamese girl’s murder

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 April, 2017, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 April, 2017, 3:09pm

A community is in shock after learning that a man arrested in connection with the murder of a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, is the head of the parents’ association of the elementary school that the victim attended.

Yasumasa Shibuya, 46, a self-proclaimed real estate broker, was described by neighbours as a “doting father.” He was arrested Friday on suspicion of abandoning the girl’s body, but not so far for the murder itself.

Shibuya, who according to neighbours became the parents’ association head last year, lived near the home of Le Thi Nhat Linh, the third-grade junior school student whose naked body was found in a grass field in Abiko, also in Chiba, on the morning of March 26.

Shibuya would often be seen watching over the students on their way to and from school, neighbours said. They said he took turns with other parents to stand by the roadside to watch over the children.

“He had a loud voice and was cheerful. He made sure to keep an eye on the children for us. There was nothing suspect about him,” said a man in his 40s who has a child in elementary school.

“He would always return my greetings, and I had a favourable impression of him,” said a housewife in her 40s. “He has a small child of his own, so I thought that he would be feeling anxious himself.”

Police suspect Linh’s body was dumped at the spot after she was suffocated.

The girl was apparently strangled elsewhere as there were no signs of a struggle in the field where she was found.

A woman whose daughter attends the same elementary school in Matsudo, Chiba, said, “I can’t get rid of my goose bumps. I can’t trust anyone anymore. I have to protect my daughter with my own hands,” she said.

“It gives me the chills,” another man in his 40s said.

Masahiro Nishimura, who heads the area’s crime prevention association, said a similar atrocity could happen anywhere at any time.

“It is sad, but we never know when or where a similar incident will happen. We must always be braced for this,” Nishimura, 68, said.

Neighbours have offered flowers, cans of juice and sweets at the site next to the drainage ditch where Linh’s body was found.

Some who visited the site pressed their hands together to pray for the victim. “I have a granddaughter around the same age as Linh-chan. I prayed, telling her to have a peaceful and gentle rest,” said Toshio Sagami, 72, from Chiba’s Kashiwa.

Faculty of Mutsumi Daini Elementary School, which the girl attended, and parents have been on high alert following the murder.

A little before noon on Friday, distraught parents came to meet their children before travelling home together in a group.

“We don’t have a grasp of the facts yet, so we want to confirm everything with the police,” said a person in charge of the Matsudo board of education.

Linh went missing on the morning of March 24 after she left for school on foot. Her home and school are approximately 600 metres apart.

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