SAPPORO – The bodies of a man and a woman were found in a burnt-out apartment in Kitahiroshima city, Hokkaido, on the morning of September 30 in a suspected case of arson.
Firefighters rushed to the two-story building after a passerby called emergency services to report “smoke coming from a second-story window” around 5.40am.
The Asubetsu Police Station of the Hokkaido Prefectural Police arrested Masami Ogino, 67, a resident of the apartment complex, on suspicion of arson. An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death of the victims. Police will consider whether to open a murder investigation based on their findings.
Ogino is suspected of setting fire to his unit around 5:35 a.m. on September 30 and setting part of the building on fire. He is said to have told the police: “I set fire by pouring kerosene in my room”. According to sources, including the prefectural police, the complex is run by a non-profit organization and is free for the homeless and other vulnerable people.
It is believed that 15 people, including Ogino and the apartment manager, were in the building at the time of the fire. The police were unable to contact two of them. A man was taken to hospital due to the fire, but is said to be in stable condition.
A 65-year-old woman who lives nearby saw a man believed to be Ogino sitting on a bench less than 100 meters from the apartment complex immediately after the building burned down and shouting, “I did it.” The woman told Mainichi Shimbun that she saw the flames and black smoke billowing from the building and added, “My legs were shaking. It’s so scary.”
A woman in her 60s living in a municipal housing complex across the street said: ‘I woke up to the sound of sirens and looked outside to see black smoke rising. Some residents were evacuating feet naked.”
(Japanese original by Takumi Taniguchi and Jun Yoneyama, Hokkaido News Department)