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5 teens arrested for allegedly murdering, assaulting homeless man in central Japan

Gifu Prefectural Police investigators examine an area around an embankment of the Ijira River in Gifu where Tetsuya Watanabe was found collapsed, on March 25, 2020. (Mainichi/Shinji Yokota)

GIFU -- Five 19-year-olds suspected of murdering and assaulting an elderly homeless man who was found collapsed on a street in the central Japan city of Gifu in late March were arrested on April 23, police said.

Three of the five teens were arrested on suspicion of murder and two were arrested on suspicion of causing bodily injury resulting in death. Police have not revealed whether five, who are all friends living within Gifu Prefecture, have admitted to or denied the allegations against them.

According to Gifu Prefectural Police, the five allegedly chased after Tetsuya Watanabe, an unemployed 81-year-old man, for approximately 800 meters, from a bridge to a street in Godo in the city of Gifu, at around 2 a.m. on March 25 and assaulted the man by hurling stones at him.

Three of the five are suspected to have hit the elderly man hard in the head, leaving him with fatal head injuries. The other two teenagers, second-year university students, reportedly stopped assaulting the man midway through the attack. Footage of surveillance cameras near the scene of the crime led police to suspect that the five were involved in the man's death.

The elderly man had lived near a riverbed close to the scene of the crime for over 20 years, said investigative sources. The man and a 68-year-old woman who lived with him in the street had filed four reports to the Gifu Kita Police Station in mid-March about strangers throwing stones at them.

The woman had made an emergency call immediately after the attack in late March reporting that several men had thrown stones at the victim. "The two of us ran away together, but I noticed he had fallen down when I looked back," she was quoted as telling police.

Prefectural police determined that they had responded to the pair's reports appropriately. They are investigating whether the five teenagers and their other friends were involved in the previous cases.

(Japanese original by Shinji Yokota, Gifu Bureau)

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