Police on Friday arrested three youths over the murder of a 13-year-old boy whose naked body was found on the bank of the Tama River in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Feb 20.
The three suspects are aged 18, 17 and 17, TBS reported. The 18-year-old told police he doesn't want to talk about the murder of Ryota Uemura, while the two 17-year-olds denied any involvement in the boy's death. They were identified through street surveillance camera footage that showed them and other teenagers walking with Uemura toward the spot where he was murdered. Footage showed them walking back without Uemura.
An autopsy revealed that Uemura was killed at around 2 a.m. on Feb 20. He had been stabbed several times in the neck, face and arms. Police found a blood-stained box cutter not too far from the body, which was one of the weapons. The victim’s clothes and shoes had been burned in a nearby public toilet.
Populist weekly Shukan Shincho reported the wounds appeared to indicate that whoever killed Uemura may have been trying to decapitate him.
"Some investigators suspect the criminals watched Internet videos showing the execution of hostages by Islamic State (IS) fighters and sought to mimic them," the magazine said, quoting an unnamed source close to police.
Police believe the 18-year-old was the ringleader of a gang of older boys and girls that Uemura began hanging out with last November. Uemura told a friend that when he refused to shoplift for the group, they began beating him up.
Uemura sent a message to a girl he knew on the instant messaging app Line in January, saying he might be killed soon by the gang.
Police have also learned that Uemura seldom went to school after the New Year holidays in January. A female teacher visited the boy’s home five times but no one was home. She also called the home more than 30 times and was only able to speak to Uemura once — on Feb 16. She told him there was an exam coming up and he had to attend. Uemura said he would but never showed up at school again.
Uemura's mother, who works a night shift as a nurse, said her son was home when she left after dinner on Feb 19. Japanese media quoted police Friday as saying they believe Uemura went out later that night after receiving a message on his cell phone from one of the gang, although investigators have been unable to find his mobile device. Police are now checking the phones belonging to the three suspects to see if they were in contact with Uemura that night.
Meanwhile, there has been a steady stream of visitors, placing flowers and offering prayers for Uemura at the murder scene.© Japan Today