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2-yr-old girl who died of alleged neglect in Sapporo was severely underweight

People pray for Kotori Ikeda, who died from alleged abuse by her mother and her boyfriend, in front of her home in Sapporo's Chuo Ward, on June 11, 2019. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

SAPPORO -- Police suspect a 2-year-old girl was given almost nothing to eat for two to three weeks before she died here after growing weak from alleged abuse by her mother and her boyfriend, it has been learned.

Hokkaido Prefectural Police arrested Kotori Ikeda's 21-year-old mother Rina and her 24-year-old boyfriend Kazuya Fujiwara on suspicion of inflicting bodily injury on the girl. Kotori had not gained much weight from the time she received a checkup in June 2018 to when she was confirmed dead in a hospital on June 5. The girl, weighing about 3 kilograms less than the normal weight of a child her age, was also bruised and had a mark from a possible cigarette burn.

Prefectural police are conducting further investigations on the assumption that the girl was subjected to long-term neglect by her mother in addition to abuse that escalated as the mom developed a closer relationship with her boyfriend.

"My newborn baby is such an angel that I've already forgotten how painful labor was," Kotori's mother said via Twitter in December 2016. "She's too cute! She's growing so fast," Rina tweeted a month after Kotori was born. But from the end of January 2017, Rina posted messages such as, "I'm always emotionally unstable," and, "I wish I could belong somewhere that I can feel relief." The last time she tweeted was in April 2017 when Kotori was about 4 months old.

The mother and daughter lived together in Japan's northernmost prefecture. Rina and Fujiwara, an employee and a manager of separate eateries in Sapporo's Susukino downtown district, respectively, apparently started dating from the beginning of this year. Rina and her daughter moved to a house near Fujiwara's apartment this February.

According to the Sapporo Municipal Government, Kotori at 18 months weighed only 6.75 kilograms and was 68 centimeters tall, about 3 kilograms and 10 centimeters below the normal weight and height of a child her age. But Rina had explained that her daughter "eats well" and city officials did not find any bruises or other injuries on the girl at the time.

Meanwhile, the differences in the way the prefectural police and the Sapporo municipal child consultation center describe how they responded to the case has shed light on the lack of cooperation between the two bodies.

"We may not have had enough understanding of each other's work," explained an official at the child consultation center. According to the center, it has not yet discussed Kotori's case with prefectural police.

(Japanese original by Nozomi Gemma, Kohei Shinkai, Junichi Tsuchiya and Chie Yamashita, Hokkaido News Department)

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