Girl, 12, confined in duffel bag / Tokyo student arrested after Hiroshima taxi driver hears cries for help

HIROSHIMA–A Tokyo university student was arrested Tuesday night in Hiroshima on suspicion of confining a 12-year-old girl in a duffel bag, after his apparent kidnapping attempt was thwarted by a taxi driver, police said.

The taxi driver who picked up the man heard a girl’s voice coming from the bag in the trunk when he stopped at a traffic light, according to the police.

The driver, Toshiyuki Hoshiyama, asked a passerby to call the police, and the man was arrested in Naka Ward at about 9 p.m. The girl was physically unharmed.

The police are looking into charges of kidnapping a minor.

Tomohiro Kodama, 20, a sophomore at Seijo University, allegedly threatened the sixth-grader with a fruit knife and ordered her to get into the bag.

The bag was 70 centimeters long, and 30 centimeters tall and wide, according to the police.

Kodama, a resident of Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, allegedly approached the girl, who was waiting for her mother on her way home from a cram school, at about 8:50 p.m. at a bus stop in Nishi Ward, about three kilometers west of where he was arrested, the police said.

The man showed her the knife, told her to be quiet and took her to a nearby alley. He then told her to kneel inside the bag. After zipping the girl into the bag, he stopped the taxi, police said.

Kodama reportedly told the driver to go to JR Hiroshima Station, but the driver noticed something strange about the man and the bag, which led to the arrest.

Kodama was holding the girl’s cell phone when he was arrested, police said, which he likely took so she could not contact anyone.

According to Seijo University, Kodama enrolled in the university’s social innovation department in April 2010. He failed his sophomore year and was repeating it. He belonged to the university’s iaido club, a Japanese sword-based martial art.

“He was a tall, quiet, skinny guy. He didn’t seem like the kind of person who could commit such a crime,” an assistant instructor of the club said.


‘Get me out!’

The taxi driver became suspicious when he felt how warm Kodama’s bag was when he helped him put in the trunk, and realized he was witnessing a crime when he later heard a voice from the bag.

“I clearly heard somebody in the bag shouting, ‘Get me out!’ when the taxi stopped at a traffic light,” Hoshiyama told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday.

Hoshiyama said Kodama stopped the taxi at about 8:50 p.m. in Nishi Ward. Since the bag he was carrying looked heavy, Hoshiyama helped him put it into the trunk. He was surprised at how warm it was.

“I wondered what was inside,” said Hoshiyama, 63.

Kodama told Hoshiyama to head to Fukuya, a department store in front of JR Hiroshima Station, and drove on in silence. Soon, however, Hoshiyama started hearing noises coming from the bag.

“Do you have a dog or something in there?” Hoshiyama asked Kodama, who he said was looking around restlessly and did not reply.

After driving for about 10 minutes, the taxi stopped at the traffic light. It was then that Hoshiyama heard someone shout, “Get me out!”

“Did you put a person in there?” Hoshiyama asked.

Kodama said, “I’m getting off here,” opened the door and tried to flee.

Hoshiyama quickly got out of the car and held the man’s arms, putting him back into the backseat of the taxi. He asked a passerby to call the police, saying, “Somebody’s trapped inside.”

“Get me out! Get me out!” the voice from the trunk kept yelling, gradually getting louder, Hoshiyama said. The man who contacted the police opened the bag and found the girl.

The girl was thin, about 1.5 meters tall, and appeared to weigh about 30 kilograms. She could not say anything and appeared to be crying.

During all this, Kodama remained silent and looked like he had given up, Hoshiyama said.

“I’m glad we avoided a worst-case situation,” Hoshiyama said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sep. 6, 2012
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