Tokyo high school student held in girlfriend’s murder grilled about apartment fire

An 18-year-old Tokyo high school student has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend, and he is also being interrogated about his involvement in a fire that burned her corpse and her apartment, police and investigative sources said Monday.

The teenager, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, admitted to strangling Mai Sato, 17, they said, adding that he had been turned over to prosecutors in the morning for further investigation. He was arrested Saturday.

Police alleged that the suspect assaulted the girl, who went to the same school, at her apartment in Tokyo’s Taito Ward or somewhere nearby between around 8:30 p.m. on May 3, when he left the apartment, and 8:35 a.m. the following day, when he returned. The fire began at around 8:30 a.m. on May 4.

The pair had gone out on May 3. After dropping her off at her home at around 8:30 p.m., he left but was shown by a neighborhood surveillance camera heading back to her apartment the following day, the sources said.

Sato was found on her back, and autopsy results show it was clean, the sources said. There were no signs she had inhaled soot, they added, noting that the findings suggested she died before the fire.

Despite the autopsy, police said they cannot determine the cause of death.

The teen called the police to report the fire and was taken to a hospital after inhaling smoke. He was discharged Wednesday after being treated for minor burns.

He initially told police that after seeing smoke coming from the girl’s second-floor apartment, he had entered via the balcony to rescue her, the sources said.

Police, however, became suspicious after his account clashed with evidence from the scene.

Other members of the girl’s family were not at home when the fire broke out, the sources said.

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