A 40-year-old male customer at an internet cafe near Tokyo was arrested Friday night after holding a female worker hostage for more than 32 hours in a small room, police said.
The worker in her 20s was released with no visible injuries. Police officers broke the door’s lock with special tools and stormed into the room after confirming the man had fallen asleep.
Police officers are pictured on June 18, 2021, outside a building in which a female worker at an internet cafe is being held hostage by a male customer in Saitama. (Kyodo)
The suspect, identified as Kazutaka Hayashi, barricaded the 3-square-meter soundproof room but made no demands for money in exchange for the woman’s release, according to investigative sources. He entered the cafe at around 10 a.m. Thursday.
Hayashi was arrested on site at around 10:40 p.m. Friday on suspicion of holding the woman unlawfully. He admitted to the charge, according to the police.
While threatening to hurt the woman with a knife, Hayashi warned police not to approach the room. The police suspect he tampered with the lock from inside the room, as the door could not be opened even with a master key.
Police said they received a report from the cafe in Saitama city at around 4:10 p.m. Thursday that the woman had gone to the male customer’s room at 2:20 p.m. after being called by him, but had not returned.
While holed up in the room, the man exchanged words with police officers through the intercom. When police gave food and drinks to the two shortly before noon on Friday, the woman spoke through the intercom to police.
However, there had been no response from the man since shortly after 8 p.m. on Friday.
The internet cafe, with its 64 small private rooms in which customers can use the internet, occupies the sixth and seventh floors of a building on a shopping street near JR Omiya Station. The incident took place in a room on the seventh floor.
The room in which Hayashi is accused of keeping the woman had a personal computer, chair and television. The operator of the establishment touts the small rooms as a quiet and private environment suitable for work or taking a nap.
One senior police official described the standoff as unprecedented, in that it “occurred in such a closed, small space.”
Due to the cafe’s emphasis on privacy with customers spread out in individual rooms, it took more than an hour and a half after the woman left to attend to the suspect before her disappearance was noticed.
With the victim trapped for a long period of time with the suspect in a closed room, many people posted messages online worrying about her safety as well as questioning the practice of internet cafes allowing customers to have locked private rooms.