The Yomiuri Shimbun MATSUDO, Chiba — Fear and unrest are spreading among classmates of the 9-year-old Vietnamese girl who was found dead, as the head of the association of parents and guardians at the victim’s elementary school was arrested on Friday on suspicion of abandoning the girl’s body last month in Abiko, Chiba Prefecture.
The suspect, Yasumasa Shibuya, 46, a self-described real-estate rental businessman, lived near the home of the victim, Le Thi Nhat Linh, in Matsudo.
Shibuya used to volunteer almost every day to monitor the safety of children of the municipal-run Mutsumi No. 2 Elementary School as children walked to get to school.
As Shibuya was also familiar with the school’s teachers, a guardian of a student said that children would not have felt suspicious of him.
According to a mother whose daughter attends the school, her daughter told her that “Shibuya was a kind man who taught her hints and tips for games.”
The mother told The Yomiuri Shimbun: “I tell my daughter not to go with strangers. But I’m wondering what I should teach her about contact with people she is familiar with.”
A boy who was the victim’s classmate said: “I saw the man many times at school events. Every student knows him as a tall man. When I saw him outside the school, I didn’t think he was a suspicious man.”
Regarding the arrest of Shibuya, the boy added: “He was a person who should have protected Linh-chan. Now I’m scared of walking outside alone.”
A 12-year-old junior high school student who graduated from the elementary school in March said: “He made a congratulatory speech at our graduation ceremony. He often came to the school, and I thought he was a good person.”
According to sources, Shibuya voluntarily became a chairman of the parents and guardians association at the school in April last year. He was supposed to continuously serve as the chairman for the school year starting in April.
At an intersection near the school, Shibuya took part in an activity to monitor the safety of children going to school, along with other volunteers, almost every day. He said to the children, “Good morning” or “Take care.”
At the school’s entrance and graduation ceremonies, Shibuya made speeches on behalf of parents and guardians and often went to the school even when there were no school events.
One guardian told The Yomiuri Shimbun: “As he went to the school so often, we said [jokingly] that ‘he went to the school every day.’ One day he ate a school-provided lunch at the school.”
Shibuya was also well known to the teachers, and recently took the school’s new principal by car to introduce the principal to those involved in crime prevention activities in the local community, sources said.