Japan’s ‘Twitter killer’ charged with nine counts of murder

Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, has admitted killing and butchering all nine of his victims – all but one were women aged between 15 and 26

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2018, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2018, 9:55pm

A man was indicted on Monday on charges of murdering and dismembering nine people at his flat near Tokyo last year, as prosecutors have determined he can be held criminally liable.

The decision about his mental competency came after about five months of psychiatric tests. Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, has admitted to the crimes. He is believed to have approached people who expressed suicidal thoughts on the internet and lured them to his flat in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

According to the indictment, Shiraishi killed and dismembered eight women and one man, aged 15 to 26, from Tokyo and four prefectures from August to October last year.

Their bodies were discovered inside containers such as cooling boxes in his flat.

Shiraishi strangled the nine people with rope and stole their cash. All the women were sexually assaulted. He had borrowed about 360,000 yen (US$3,240) from one victim.

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Shiraishi has been served with arrest warrants 10 times in connection with the murders and disposal of the bodies. The indictment covers all of the cases.

The killings first came to light last October when police officers stepped into his flat and found several cooling boxes containing body parts.

The officers were looking for a missing woman from Tokyo, who turned out to be one of the victims.

Shiraishi told investigators he got in touch with the victims through Twitter and invited them to his flat, saying he would help them die.

Police said Shiraishi also told investigators he committed the murders to steal money and “wanted to lead an easy life”.

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Prosecutors decided to have him undergo a psychiatric examination before indicting him, as his mental state at the time of the crimes is expected to be a focal point at his trial, sources said.

Due to the large amount of evidence, his trial is expected to be long, the sources said.

The serial killings of young people in need of help shocked the nation and prompted the government and social business businesses to improve support.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology decided to pay for counselling projects in 30 municipalities that use apps such as Line, a messaging system commonly used by young people.

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Nagano prefecture, which opened consultations via Line for two weeks in 2017, found more people wanted to use the service than traditional telephone centres, according to the ministry.

“Most of what they talk about concerns human relationships, including romantic relationships,” said Tomoki Miyata, a clinical psychologist in Osaka. “It enables us to take preventive measures before things get serious.”

The government has vowed to tackle internet-linked crimes by improving education for junior school pupils and encouraging private-sector groups to monitor social network posts related to suicide.

In January, Twitter Japan began allowing users to be linked to a suicide prevention charity whenever they searched for words related to suicide.