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Children killed at 'torture' nursery

JAPAN

A NURSERY manager has been charged with killing two toddlers in her care and seriously injuring 17 others at her centre in Kanagawa, just outside Tokyo.

Since early last year when the unauthorised childcare centre opened, 29-year-old Junko Izumo allegedly turned her nursery into a torture centre for children.

The case has alerted parents to the risks of unauthorised care in the booming nursery business. Experts say the expansion of such nurseries has been caused by the rising divorce rate.

Despite reports to police, no action was taken until last month. Japan's vague child protection laws require an authority to report such abuse to the police. A new lawwill state that anyone can report suspected child abuse. Officials also said the existing law is confusing over when they can intervene in private nurseries.

The first reports of abuse came just after the Smile Mom nursery opened in February 1999. Some parents had said children had suffered broken bones and bruises.

The government conducted four investigations, the last in June after the deaths of the two children in February.

The police suspect all the incidents occurred while Izumo was taking care of the children alone. Despite assuring parents that her centre was fully staffed authorities now know that she took on workers only for the official visits.

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