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Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 12:40 GMT
Japanese woman's captive childhood

Police at house Police arrive at the house where Fusako Sano was kept captive


By Juliet Hindell in Tokyo

A 19-year-old Japanese woman has been rescued after nine years of being held captive in a man's home.

The last time anyone saw Fusako Sano was almost a decade ago at a school baseball game in Niigata, 250 km (160 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

After that she disappeared. A huge search was mounted, but she was never found.


For nine years, I did not take a step out of the house - today I went outside for the first time
Fusako Sano
In fact, she had been abducted by a man, now 37, who confined her in the upper storey of a house where he lives with his mother.

Ms Sano was discovered after the man's mother called hospital officials to the house to examine her son.

The mother lived downstairs, but told police she had no idea a girl was in the house.

She said her son would turn violent if she tried to go to the room upstairs.

She summoned the medics because, she said, her son had been acting strangely. He is now being treated in hospital.

Reunited

Ms Sano was weak and dehydrated, but she had been fed three times a day by the man.

She told police he gave her men's clothes to wear and cut her hair.


Niigata window A police investigator covers an upper storey window at the house
"For nine years, I did not take a step out of the house," she told police. "Today I went outside for the first time."

She has now been reunited with her parents. Her mother did not recognise her at first; the last time she saw her she was only a child.

Both parents were profoundly relieved and said they had never stopped thinking about their missing daughter.

Ms Sano told police that at first she had been scared but eventually gave in to her fate. She said she had spent most of her time watching television

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