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Kobe couple who left children at home to play pachinko arrested after baby dies

The apartment building where four young children were allegedly left unattended is seen in Kobe's Suma Ward on Jan. 23, 2020. (Mainichi/Koji Minemoto, image partially modified)

KOBE -- A couple whose 3-month-old son died after they left him at home with three young siblings for nearly eight hours while they went out and played pachinko, were arrested on Jan. 23, police said.

Shinya Takashima, 36, a company employee living in Kobe's Suma Ward, and his wife Hiromi, 38, a dental hygienist, stand accused of abandonment by persons responsible for protection. The Hyogo Prefectural Police's Suma Police Station is investigating the case with an eye to upgrade the charge to aggravated abandonment resulting in death.

Police suspect that the couple left their 5-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter, 1-year-old son and 3-month-old son at an apartment in the ward from around 10:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 26, 2019. The couple have admitted to the allegations.

According to the police station, Shinya got home at around 6:30 p.m. and found his third son Masamune unconscious. He called an ambulance but Masamune was confirmed dead at a hospital. The cause of his death has not been identified, though an official autopsy was carried out.

The other three infants, who were not injured are now in the custody of a municipal child consultation center in Kobe.

According to the Kobe Municipal Government, it emerged in November 2017 that the daughter had not taken the free public medical examination for 18-month-old infants. Health nurses accordingly visited the couple's home several times, suspecting neglect.

In August 2018, a neighbor reported to police that the children had been left at home, and an employee of a child consultation center provided guidance to the couple. When an employee of the city visited their house in November 2019 before the incident, there was nothing unusual about the four children.

A male company employee in his 20s living in the same apartment building said to a reporter, "I saw the children in the corridor late at night, which worried me, but I didn't find anyone in their apartment. I thought that their parents weren't properly taking care of them.

(Japanese original by Kwanghoon Han, Kimi Sorihashi and Koji Minemoto, Kobe Bureau)

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