A 33-year-old Japanese woman reportedly froze to death in her tiny windowless room where she was confined by her parents for more than 15 years, believing she had a form of mental illness that made her violent.
The body of the victim, Airi Kakimoto, who was was 145 centimeters tall (4 feet 9 inches) and weighed only about 19 kilograms (41 pounds), was found in an extremely malnourished condition by the police on Dec. 23, according to Reuters via South China Morning Post.
The woman was reportedly only fed once per day and always kept by her parents, 55-year-old Yasutaka Kakimoto and 53-year-old Yukari Kakimoto, in a 3-square-meter (32-foot-square) room they added to their house in Osaka, Japan.
“Our daughter was mentally ill and, from age 16 or 17, she became violent, so we kept her inside the room,” the parents told the police.
The room in question is said to be equipped with a surveillance camera presumably to monitor Airi inside, a double door that can only be unlocked outside, a makeshift toilet and a tube connected to a water tank outside the room.
“We wanted to be together with our daughter,” the police quoted the parents as saying.
Airi was found dead by her parents on Dec. 18, but was only reported to the authorities on Saturday. They were arrested on suspicion of illegally disposing a body.
Both Yasutaka and Yukari are now in police custody, CNN reported. Osaka police now have 23 days from the time they arrested the couple to decide whether to press charges against them. Their first court appearance would only be scheduled several months after they receive formal charges.
According to sociology professor at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, Kohei Yamamoto, this particular case showed the “strong social stigma against mental illness in Japan.” It showed the parents also became the victims of a Japanese society that lacks a sense of community as well as medical support for those suffering from mental illnesses.
Professor Yamamoto added that this type of stigma can be seen in other countries as well, warning that there may be “many more families who have the same kind of issues and problems as this family.”