Police investigating the murder of a 90-year-old woman at her house in Komae, Tokyo, last week, said that information on mobile phones confiscated from suspects in two robberies in Tokyo's Nakano Ward, and Chiba Prefecture, listed the Komae house as a target for a "job."
Kinuyo Oshio was found dead by police and members of her family in the basement of the three-story house at around 5:20 p.m. last Thursday, Kyodo News reported. Her wrists were tied together with a zip band and she had been beaten about the head and had suffered a broken kneecap.
Oshio lived with her son, his wife and their two adult children. All four of them had left the house at around 8 a.m. to go to work, leaving Oshio at home alone. Police said the first and second floors and basement of the house had been ransacked.
Police believe Oshio's murder may have been carried out by the same gang that has been responsible for at least 10 house robberies and jewelry store thefts in several prefectures in the Kanto region, as well as Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures since November.
Police said street surveillance camera footage showed several people in the vicinity of Oshio's house during the day of the murder. Two rental cars were observed parked near the house on the two days before the murder. Furthermore, unidentified fingerprints and footprints were found in the basement of the house.
Earlier on Thursday afternoon, police in Chofu, Tokyo, received a call from Chiba police, saying that a message on the smartphone of a man arrested on Jan 12 for a robbery in Oamishirasato, Chiba Prefecture, indicated that Oshio's house was being targeted for a job. The smartphone belonged to a Self-Defense Force member in his 20s from Mie Prefecture.
NHK reported Sunday that gang members are believed to have been recruited on an Instagram site. The mobile phone of Rikuto Nagata, 21, who was arrested for a Nakano house robbery in which six men stole 30 million yen, also listed several addresses in Adachi Ward, including one residence which was robbed.
Another message contained the words “Komae City” with a comment, “I will contact you once there is an opening.”
Police said they are questioning Nagato, who is from Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, to try and find out the name of the ringleader who has been recruiting gang members online. He was quoted by police as saying the members of the gang did not know each other before the robbery.
Besides Nagato, one other suspect in the Nakano case has been arrested ― a man in his 30s. Another man has been arrested on suspicion of robbing a jewelry store in Tokyo's Shibuya district. He also told police he was recruited online and given instructions on what to do.
Police said the escalating series of robberies are becoming more violent. At first, elderly victims in their homes were bound but in the most recent cases, victims have been beaten with hammers and other blunt objects to force them to hand over cash and items of value.© Japan Today/Kyodo