Japanese teen escapes from two year kidnap ordeal

Man held in Tokyo after girl called police from payphone when flat door left unlocked

A teenage girl who vanished in Japan two years ago on her way home from school is back with her family after escaping from her captor's Tokyo apartment.

Her alleged kidnapper, Kabu Terauchi (23), is being treated in hospital for self-inflicted injuries, according to Japanese media reports, which said he was found wandering near a forest south-west of Tokyo. Police are waiting to formally arrest him once he has recovered.

Ana Saito, then 15, went missing shortly after she left her school on the afternoon of March 10th, 2014. A note was left in the family postbox the following day, asking her parents not to look for her.

Ms Saito has told police she was held in at least two apartments and that she was unable to flee because she was kept under close watch. She finally escaped on Sunday when Terauchi went to buy a mobile phone and left the door unlocked, says Kyodo News.


Terauchi's Facebook page shows him posing inside the cockpit of a small plane and says he trained as a pilot in California. The Asahi newspaper says he graduated this month from the engineering department of Chiba University, one of Japan's better higher-education institutions.

He allegedly tricked the girl by telling her that her parents were divorcing and offering to escort her to a lawyer’s office. Her family did not believe her letter and immediately reported her disappearance to the police.


Media reports say Terauchi moved his captive several times before they ended up at a small flat in a residential area of Higashi-Nakano in Tokyo. The first-floor flat was in a typically crammed Tokyo apartment building, with neighbours on either side and above, raising questions about why nobody sounded the alarm. The flat door could apparently open from the inside.

Television pictures showed investigators carrying a large trunk out of the flat. Reporters have speculated that Terauchi used the trunk to conceal and move Ms Saito around the city. Neighbours told reporters they had talked to Terauchi and found nothing suspicious about him. There were no reports of fights or loud noises from inside the flat.

Ms Saito fled on Sunday and called police from a public telephone about 200m away. She told them she had been snatched from outside her home in Saitama, north of Tokyo and was pushed into a car.

The case bears superficial resemblance to another infamous Tokyo abduction. In 2000, 19-year-old Fusako Sano, who had vanished nine years earlier, turned up alive in the home of a mentally disturbed unemployed man, Nobuyuki Sato.

Until her freedom, Ms Sano had not set foot outside the home, which was a few hundred metres from a police station.

Mr Sato’s mother lived downstairs in the same house and insisted she knew nothing about the abduction because she was too afraid of her son to approach him. He is serving out a 14-year sentence. The case led to heavy criticism of the police because they had missed clues to his identity.

David McNeill

David McNeill

David McNeill, a contributor to The Irish Times, is based in Tokyo