Welfare Authorities Failed to Protect 4 Year Old Despite Repeated Police Requests

Officials of Izumi Municipal Government bow at the start of a news conference in Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Sunday. | KYODO

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Four year old Riara Otsuka was taken into protective custody four times between March 22nd and April 2nd when authorities repeatedly found her outside, wandering the streets alone at night, without any parental supervision.  According to Japan Times, police wrote and telephoned the Kagoshima child consultation center several times about taking Otsuka into protective custody.

 

During that time, Otsuka and her mother, reported to be in her 20s, lived in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture.  Police there received a tip that there was a video on the internet which seemed to indicate that Otsuka may have been abused.

 

The police and child welfare center investigated, but found no signs of abuse.  "The child showed no signs of wariness toward her mother and we found no evidence of child abuse," Shiro Sata, the head of the welfare center, told reporters Sunday.  Their conclusion they reached was that the mother had neglected Otsuka and merely needed support.

 

The unknown factor in this was the mother's live-in boyfriend, 21 year old Shun Hiwatashi.

 

It is not clear if the three were living together in Satsumasendai, but the three did move together in July to Izumi.  With the move, child welfare officials in Satsumasendai told their counterparts in Izumi about the reports and requests for action, but none was taken.

 

Otsuka was taken to a local emergency room on July 22nd when her mom said that she had hit her head on a table while playing and vomited after.

 

On August 5th, staff at a different hospital noted bruising on her face and other parts of her body.

 

A public health nurse is said to have paid a visit to the home on August 26th, to interview Otsuka and her mother, and reported no signs of abuse at that time though admittedly, they only checked her her head and face.

 

During the family's short time in Izumi, several neighbors took note that it seemed there was abuse going on in the home.

 

“My wife saw the girl standing naked outside for hours in the rain, and I also heard the child cry out loud several times,” said a man in his 60s, who lives in the neighborhood.  Even after the neighbor went to check on her well being, she continued to stand outside in the rain, but was then wearing underclothes.  It was also reported that neighbors could hear her loudly crying at night.

 

On August 28th, Hiwatashi took Otsuka to the emergency room saying that he had found her unconscious in the bathtub at home.  She was pronounced deceased shortly after her arrival at the hospital.

The following day, August 28th, hospital workers reported their suspicion of abuse to the police as there had been signs of bruising on Otsuka.  An autopsy was performed and determined that the likely cause of death was drowning, and bruises indicated that she had been repeatedly beaten.

 

Under questioning, Hiwatashi admitted to hitting Otsuka in the head with his fist the night before she drowned at about 7:30 pm.

 

Hiwatashi was arrested by police on Saturday for child abuse.  It is unknown if he will face any additional charges.

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