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Man arrested for confining intellectually disabled son says family was at 'end of tether'

A man released following his arrest on suspicion of confining his intellectually disabled son expresses regret over his actions in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun in Hirano Ward, Osaka, on July 5, 2019. (Mainichi/Akihiko Tsuchida)

OSAKA -- A man temporarily arrested on suspicion of confining his eldest son, who has severe intellectual disabilities, has expressed mixed feelings about the incident in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

Osaka Prefectural Police arrested the man along with his 41-year-old wife in June 2019 on suspicion of confining their 22-year-old son in a third-floor room of their home in Hirano Ward in the western Japan city of Osaka. The couple were released on July 4 after they admitted to the allegations.

"I did something irreparable," the 45-year-old man lamented. Admitting that looking after his son had placed a heavy burden on the family, he divulged, "We were at the end of our tether."

The man and his wife had previously consulted the municipal government about getting assistance for their eldest son. Noting this, people in the welfare sector said the incident could have been avoided if concerned government bodies had been proactive.

The couple's 23-year-old eldest daughter, who has moderate intellectual disabilities, was earlier arrested on suspicion of murder for fatally trampling on the couple's 3-year-old son. She is now in detention awaiting psychiatric evaluation. An investigation into this incident led police to uncover the confinement of the 22-year-old.

The couple had four other children aged 2 to 5, and the wife also has moderate intellectual disabilities. The 23-year-old daughter was quoted as telling investigators, "I was told to look after my younger brother and I was sick and tired of it."

The 22-year-old son was working at a workshop for disabled people in Osaka Prefecture, but began going missing at night and shoplifting. His father looked for him whenever he disappeared, as he was not able to state his address or phone number.

In August last year, the 22-year-old was handed a suspended prison term for theft. Several months earlier, his mother had consulted with the ward office over the family's desire to put him into a nursing care facility for the disabled.

However, an official who responded to her merely handed her a list of facilities and advised her to phone them on her own.

Her husband called some of the facilities but all of them refused to admit their eldest son on such grounds as, "We accept only those under 18," or "We have no vacancy."

The couple became unable to look after their son because they have young children, and apparently began to confine the victim sometime around February. The room where the 22-year-old was confined was locked from the outside and had no lighting. A bucket was left in the room for when he needed to go to the bathroom.

"I'm sorry for what I've done to my eldest son, but we were unable to do anything else," the father said. "I'm at fault, but things like this might've been avoided if we had relied more on government bodies."

In June 2017, a lawyer and people close to the workshop where the victim worked urged the municipal government to place the victim in protective custody and provide social welfare services to him. However, the city was slow to respond.

An official in charge at the municipal government declined to comment on the matter, citing the need to protect personal information on the eldest son.

A similar incident took place in Sanda in the western Japan prefecture of Hyogo. The prefectural police arrested a 74-year-old man in April 2018 on suspicion of confining his intellectually disabled 43-year-old son inside a cage on the premises of their home. The victim's father was handed a suspended prison sentence for illegal confinement.

However, a third-party panel set up by the Sanda Municipal Government pointed out that the son was excluded from public assistance although he was entitled to such aid because of an inadequate job handover between officials in charge. The panel accordingly urged the municipal government to take measures to support disabled people who do not receive welfare services, such as by regularly visiting them.

(Japanese original by Haruka Ito and Akihiko Tsuchida, City News Department)

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