Tuesday 28 February 2017

Knife killer wrote about 'euthanasia for disabled'

Neil Connor in Beijing

A police officer is seen in a facility for the disabled, where a knife-wielding man attacked, in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 26, 2016
A police officer is seen in a facility for the disabled, where a knife-wielding man attacked, in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 26, 2016

THE man who police say killed 19 patients at a Japanese care home had been committed to a psychiatric hospital after stating that disabled people should be put to death.

Murder suspect Satoshi Uematsu wrote in letters he sent to parliamentarians in February that he could "obliterate 470 disabled people", Reuters said, citing local reports.

"My goal is a world in which the severely disabled can, with their guardians' consent, be euthanised if they are unable to live at home and be active in society," wrote Uematsu, Japan's national broadcaster NHK said.

After writing the letters, which were given to the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Uematsu voluntarily resigned from his job at the Tsukui Yamayuri-En facility in Sagamihara, about 40km south-west of Tokyo.

He was subsequently committed to the psychiatric facility and was said to have been freed on March 2.

Early on Tuesday, the 26-year-old returned to the care home and killed 19 patients as they slept, injuring at least 25 others, authorities said.

"You could say there were warning signs, but it's difficult to say if this could have been prevented," said Yuji Kuroiwa, the governor of Kanagawa prefecture, where the facility is located.

Mr Kuroiwa said that the suspect had begun to change around the time that he had written the letters. "This was not an impulsive crime... He went in the dark of the night, opened one door at a time, and stabbed sleeping people one by one," Mr Kuroiwa added.

"I just can't believe the cruelty of this crime. We need to prevent this from ever happening again."

Staff at the facility were understood to have called police at 2.30am to report the intruder.

Local reports said Uematsu tied up employees before going from room to room slitting the throats of patients.

The attack has raised questions over whether the perception of Japan as one of the world's safest countries has created a false sense of security. Japan has a relatively low homicide rate of well under one per 100,000 people and mass killings are rare.

The attack shocked neighbours, many of whom said they had a good relationship with both the staff and the residents of the home in the hilly, semi-rural community in Sagamihara.

Reiko Kishi (80), who worked at the home for more than 30 years, said: "Such a crime is unheard of in this peaceful suburban neighbourhood. I will be more careful about locking the door and windows."

Irish Independent

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