Jun 2, 2008

Under One Roof

(Japan 6/2/08) A homeless woman who sneaked into a man's one story house in Shime, Fukuoka Prefecture, and lived undetected in his closet for a year has been arrested after the man became suspicious when he noticed his food mysteriously disappearing. He installed security cameras that transmitted images to his mobile phone. When he saw someone in his house, he suspected a burglar and called police.

But when police arrived they found no sign of a forced entry. No broken windows, no broken lock. When they got inside there was no sign that the house had been ransacked. They looked high and low and eventually found Tatsuko Horikawa, 58, hiding in the top compartment of the 57-year-old man's closet. She was arrested for trespassing, police spokesman Hiroki Itakura from Kasuya Police Station said.

"We searched the house . . . checking every- where someone could possibly hide," police spokesman Itakura said. "When we slid open the shelf closet, there she was, nervously curled up on her side."

The man lived alone in the one-story house and was not using the room with the shelf closet where the women was living. The height of the shelf closet is only 50 cm. Horikawa had moved a thin mattress into the small closet space and even took showers, Itakura said, calling the woman "neat and clean."

Horikawa was taken to a jail facility where she was interrogated. At first, she said nothing but after several days she began to tell her story. She told police that she had come from the north looking for work. She said her husband had thrown her out of the house because he had lost his job and she wouldn't give him proper attention. She lived on the streets but when the cold set in she sought out houses in the area, and gained access through unlocked doors. She said that she did not mind living in such a cramped space and even had a sense of protection from the enclosure. "I have lived all my life on shelves", she told police.

She described how she could hear the owner of the house and learned his habits quickly. "He must be a very dull man," she said. "He never did anything. He came home, he fixed his dinner, and went to sleep. That's not much of a life. All the time I wondered, 'what's he thinking about?' No television, no radio. I never heard him speak a single word, although once I think he may have been weeping. I couldn't tell, you know, everything was muffled. Once I thought he had left for the day, I got confused what day it was, and I was almost discovered. He was sitting in a chair in his main room, staring into space. But I only saw his back. In fact, I have never seen him. If he came in here right now and accused me I wouldn't recognize him. No, not a sound from the man. He was like a mouse. 'Perhaps he is lonely,' I thought. 'Maybe he would like someone to talk to.' I thought of exposing myself, but I couldn't take a chance. I saw his mail every day. He got postal cards from Hiroshima. It sounded like his mother. She was still taking treatments for radiation. I wondered about that. You know they say the children of those people are a little crazy. I would say we made a good pair. I am sorry he felt I took something. I cleaned up his room. Did he tell you that things seemed a little neater than usual? I even did his laundry sometimes and took care to make sure he was would not notice. I never took any money, although I could have. Yes, so we lived like that. It was not bad. There are worse lives I can tell you for sure."

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