A Japanese man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to murdering, dismembering and storing the bodies of nine youths in his flat near Tokyo in a 2017 case involving victims who had expressed suicidal thoughts through Twitter. Takahiro Shiraishi, the 29-year-old defendant, told the Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court that the allegations against him were “correct.” His defence team, however, taking a different stance from Shiraishi, argued that he killed the victims – eight women and one man aged 15 to 26 – with their consent as they had expressed suicidal thoughts on social media, and therefore was guilty of the lesser charge of homicide with consent. According to the indictment, Shiraishi strangled and dismembered his victims from Tokyo and four other prefectures from August to October in 2017. Their bodies were discovered inside containers such as cooling boxes in his flat in Zama, Kanagawa prefecture. Japan police arrest Chinese national over body found in suitcase Shiraishi is alleged to have stolen cash from them and sexually assaulted all the female victims. He owed one of the women around 360,000 yen (US$3,410). After five months of psychiatric tests, prosecutors concluded Shiraishi can be held criminally liable and indicted him in September 2018. In the day’s first hearing of his trial under the lay judge system, the victims’ names were not disclosed and they were instead referred to by the letters A through I as requested by their family members, given the sensitivity of the case. The court has separated the victims into three groups in chronological order for a total of 24 hearings, which are expected to be held over 77 days. The ruling is set to be handed down on December 15. The serial killings first came to light in October 2017 when police officers visited Shiraishi’s flat and found several cooling boxes containing body parts during their search for a 23-year-old missing Tokyo woman, who later turned out to be one of the victims. Japan hangs Chinese man who killed family of four, dumped bodies in sea Shiraishi is believed to have approached people who expressed suicidal thoughts on Twitter under his account name loosely translated as “Hangman” and invited them to his home, saying he would help them die, according to investigative sources. He apparently searched on the internet for how to mutilate bodies and bought tools such as a chopper and a saw, while practising how to tie rope knots, the sources said. The case shocked many in Japanese society and prompted the government and social networking service businesses to increase support for young people in need of help. Following the incident, Twitter Japan started allowing users to be linked to a non-profit organisation on suicide prevention work whenever words related to suicide are searched for. If you are having suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page .