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Head of missing child found in front of Japanese school

May 27, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ A custodian discovered the head of a missing 11-year-old boy in a courtyard in front of a Kobe junior high school this morning with a note stuffed in the mouth.

Police said the head was that of Jun Hase, a mentally handicapped sixth grader who disappeared Saturday after leaving his home to visit a nearby house where his grandfather lived.

The custodian found the head hours before students arrived at the public Tomogaoka junior high school. Later, a body believed to be the boy’s was discovered near a drainage pond in bushes on a hill about 550 yards from the school, Hyogo Prefectural police spokesman Takahiko Yoto said.

The head was identified by the boy’s father, Mamoru Hase, 41. The Japanese news agency Kyodo said the head had been mutilated with a knife.

Another police spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a note stuffed in the boy’s mouth included the Japanese word ``onibara,″ which loosely translates as ``devil’s rose.″

The spokesman said no one has been arrested, and he refused to speculate on what may have motivated the slaying.

Violent crime is rare in Japan, but two other recent attacks have targeted elementary school students in Kobe, a city of 1.45 million people 270 miles west of Tokyo. One girl was killed and another seriously injured in March. The cases remain unsolved.

The boy and two girls attended different elementary schools, but the bodies of the two slain children were found within a half-mile of one another. Police refused to say whether three cases could be linked.

Children who attend neighborhood schools have been commuting in groups since the March assaults.

In January 1995, Kobe was hit by a massive earthquake, which killed 6,300 in the greater metropolitan region.

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