It felt 'nice': What Taipei subway killer told police after stabbing spree

Assailant says he found it difficult to live, so carried out murder to get death penalty

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 11:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 11:28am

The attacker in Taiwan’s first deadly subway attack told police investigators he felt “nice” after stabbing four passengers to death.

Cheng Chieh, a 21-year-old Tunghai University student, boarded the train from downtown to the nearby New Taipei City on Wednesday, pulled out a knife and began stabbing people at random during the nearly four-minute ride. Twenty-four were injured.

“[Cheng] also told us he chose to commit the crime from Lungshan Temple station to Jiangzicui station because he knew the ride – the longest between stops – would give him more time to kill,” said an investigator with the New Taipei City police department.

Passengers rushed out of the attacker’s train car when it arrived at Jiangzicui on the metro’s main east-west line, shouting for people on the platform to flee, according to news reports. Photos showed a train car floor and the station platform next to it splattered with blood.

Watch: Knife attacker caught on camera

Cheng was arrested after he tried to attack more passengers fleeing the carriage when the train stopped at Jiangzicui.

He was taken into custody at the Taipei Detention Centre yesterday morning, following lengthy questioning by police investigators.

It was the first such attack on the Taipei metro system since it started operations in 1996.

Police said the suspect confessed he wanted to do “something big” since childhood and that he had fantasised about a subway killing spree.

He also told police he found it “distressful” to live, but because he had no courage to kill himself, he decided to carry out mass murder so he could receive the death penalty.

Police said many of the victims did not see the attacker coming, possibly because they were sleeping or looking at their cellphones, allowing Chieh to claim so many victims in such a short time.

The attacker’s parents told police their son was a homebody and liked spending time on computer games featuring violence.

As Taiwan, which has generally had low crime rates, was left stunned by the tragedy, legislators demanded that police beef up patrols in public areas.

President Ma Ying-jeou ordered Taiwan’s police ministry to investigate what led a university student to go on a murderous rampage.

“I feel extremely shocked and hurt by this grave event,” Ma said on his Facebook page. He said he told the cabinet to “order the National Police Agency to do all it can to check into the situation behind this case”.

Tsai Cheng-yuan, a legislator of the ruling Kuomintang, has initiated a draft revision of the criminal law to make capital punishment the sole penalty for random killings in public.

Taipei’s metro system raised security from Wednesday afternoon as trains resumed service just after 5pm on the day of the attack. About 1.78 million people ride the metro daily.

“I thought the metro system was OK today, although some people on the train were discussing the incident,” said commuter Alice Chen, an accountant in her 40s. “They said it was terrifying. It’s terrifying but I think it’s a one-off incident.”

With additional reporting from Associated Press