Knifeman who stabbed four to death on Taipei subway had 'planned attack for years'

Police say university student ran amok on a train, stabbing passengers at random

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 3:12pm

At least four people were killed in a knife attack on a subway train in Taipei yesterday, in the worst attack on the subway line in its 18-year history.

Police said a 21-year-old Tunghai University student, identified as Cheng Che, moved down the train, stabbing passengers at random at about 4pm yesterday.

Two men and two women died. Twenty-one people were injured and are in hospital.

Watch: Caught on camera: Knifeman stabs four to death on Taipei subway

The attack happened while the train was en route to Jiangzicui from Longshan Temple.

Panic-struck travellers rushed out of the train when it stopped at a station and screamed for help. A female student on the platform at Jiangzicui station said that when the train pulled up, bloodied women ran out as soon as the door opened, shouting, “A man inside with a knife attacking at random, don’t go in!”

“I’m so scared, help me!” shouted another victim after police arrived on the scene.

The knifeman followed passengers onto the platform, but was pursued by police. He tried to run away but was overpowered.

Under interrogation, he confessed to police that he had planned the attack long time ago but only decided to commit the crime last week. The suspect showed no remorse, police said.

Police are still determining if Cheng has a mental illness. 

One woman who was cut in the arm by the attacker said: "He looked very calm and seemed undisturbed by the terrified passengers when he stabbed at them, aiming mostly at their necks and stomachs."

Another passenger who was chased by the suspect and managed to escape said: "I heard people screaming when a woman collapsed and then I realised that a lunatic was attacking others with a knife.

"As the train was moving, there was no way we could get off."

Police said the suspect attacked people at random and showed no sign of remorse after he was arrested.

Police said he did not have a medical record, but they could not rule out that he was mentally ill.

"He told us he had wanted to do an 'important thing' since childhood and had told his friends about this," said Chen Kuo-en, the head of New Taipei City police department.

"He bought two knives, including a 30 centimetre long one, from a supermarket, took the subway from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall station in Taipei, and commenced the crime at Lungshan Temple station."

Lu Ping-kuan, the chief secretary of Tunghai University in Taichung in the west of the island, said they had learned through the suspect's social media account on Facebook that the student was mentally unstable.

"We had tried to arrange a consultation for him, but because of the recent rainstorm we had to postpone the consultation to a later day," said Lu.

The parents of the suspect were not available for comment last night.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu Li-luan said yesterday that they would increase police patrols on the subway system in the aftermath of the attack.

As of 4.50 pm yesterday, the subway returned to normal operations, according to Xinhua.

Police have stepped up patrols as the Taipei subway sees about 1.8 million passengers on an average day, while only 135 police officers are stationed there.