Bullet train horror: passengers describe panic as man goes on stabbing spree in Japan

Police arrest a 22-year-old unemployed suspect on suspicion of attempted murder

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2018, 5:25am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2018, 8:24pm

A man was arrested in central Japan after stabbing one person to death and injuring two others aboard a bullet train, a rare assault in a nation that boasts one of the world’s lowest rates of violent crime.

The suspect, identified as Ichiro Kojima, attacked the victims about 10:00pm Saturday aboard the shinkansen train which was travelling from Tokyo to a station in Osaka, police and news reports said.

Police officers stormed the rail carriage and found the suspect on top of a man lying unconscious on the floor of the isle with a knife stuck in his thigh.

The victim was also stabbed in the neck and was later pronounced dead.

They took the Kojima into custody after the train, carrying some 880 passengers, made an emergency stop at Odawara station.

Police arrested the 22-year-old unemployed suspect on suspicion of attempted murder, a local police spokesman said.

“A male passenger was sent to hospital and his death was confirmed later,” the spokesman said.

News reports said two women who appeared to be in their twenties were wounded but their injuries were not life-threatening.

The suspect told investigators that he felt “frustrated and wanted to kill someone”, public broadcaster NHK said, adding that he used at least two knives.

Witnesses said passengers fled in panic, some of them in tears.

“All of a sudden, a lot of passengers were dashing from behind. People panicked”, a 44-year-old male passenger told the Mainichi newspaper.

“Everyone appeared to be feeling the strain and some of them cried.”

Some passengers were holding removed seats, apparently to protect themselves.

A female passenger told NHK: “Everyone fled and fell like one domino falling after another. I was scared to death.”

Kojima left home in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, last December, according to an 81-year-old woman believed to be a relative of the suspect.

After being hospitalised to treat a mental illness, he started to work in Okazaki but left the woman’s house, where he had lived with her since around the age of 20.

“I have been always worried about him,” the woman said in a telephone interview with Kyodo on Sunday. She had kept calling his mobile phone but could not reach him recently.

Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world and mass attacks are extremely rare.

And the operators of shinkansen, often praised for its speed and punctuality, also boast its safety, with no fatalities having occurred due to derailments or malfunctions in its more than 50 years of service since 1964.

However, the high-speed trains have not been immune to crime. A few serious crimes have been committed on the trains, most recently in June 2015 when a 71-year-old man set himself on fire on a train, killing himself and another passenger.

The fire, which also occurred on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line, prompted shinkansen operators to increase patrols at stations and install security cameras on trains.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Kyodo