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Kyota Hattori, suspect in a Halloween stabbing and fire attack on a train that left 17 people injured, is escorted to the prosecutor's office from the Chofu police station in Tokyo on November 2. Photo: AFP

Japan’s Joker attacker targeted busy Tokyo train on Halloween to ‘kill a lot of people’

  • Kyota Hattori, 24, was referred to prosecutors on Tuesday after Sunday’s attack, in which 17 people were injured, with one man still critical
  • Police said Hattori, who was inspired by the Batman character, planned the attack over months, buying a knife and lighter fluid to start a fire on the train
A Japanese man who was arrested after injuring 17 people in a knife and arson attack on a train on the night of Halloween told police he targeted Tokyo in hopes of killing as many people as possible, investigative sources said on Tuesday.

“I thought I could kill a lot of people in Tokyo,” Kyota Hattori, 24, was quoted as saying by investigators.

Videos and photos of the incident, which took place on a Keio Line train on Sunday night, were posted on social media by eyewitnesses and showed the suspect at the scene wearing a bright green shirt, dark tie and purple suit reminiscent of Batman villain the Joker.

Tokyo police referred Hattori to prosecutors on Tuesday on suspicion of attempted murder.

Of the 17 injured people, a 72-year-old man remains in critical condition after allegedly being stabbed in the chest by Hattori while the limited express train was still in motion.

The suspect also allegedly started a fire on the train using lighter fluid. Video recorded by people on the train showed passengers running to escape a large blaze in one of the carriages.

The other 16 victims aged from their teens to their 60s sustained minor injuries, including smoke inhalation.

Hattori was quoted as saying by investigators that he targeted Halloween as the trains would be busy with passengers.

About two hours before the incident, he visited Tokyo’s Shibuya district, where throngs of costumed partygoers celebrate the festival, according to the police.

Japanese knife attacker in Joker outfit ‘wanted to get death penalty’

Hattori arrived in Tokyo in late September from his native city of Fukuoka, a few months after quitting his job at a company he worked at for three years. After leaving the southwestern Japan city, he stayed at hotels in Kobe and Nagoya while accumulating debts, according to the sources.

Once in Tokyo, Hattori bought the Joker costume, lighter fluid and bug spray, according to the sources. Police found a knife, several plastic bottles which possibly contained lighter fluid and an aerosol can in a train car.

He told investigators he prepared the fluid to burn on the train, indicating the premeditated nature of the attack which was inspired by another knife attack in August in which a man splashed cooking oil on an Odakyu Electric Railway commuter train that failed to ignite.

Police officers inspect a Keio Line train in Tokyo after a man was arrested in a knife and arson attack that injured 17 people on the train. Photo: Kyodo

He also said he “wanted to kill people and be given the death penalty” and that he had been “thinking from around June of being sentenced to death”.

Hattori was quoted as saying he had failed in work and had troubled relationships with his friends. He also told police that he adores the Joker character in the Batman franchise.

Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito told a news conference on Tuesday the government had told train companies to increase vigilance to prevent further attacks.

“Trains are essential to the life of society, and it’s extremely important to be able to feel safe as you ride them,” he said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Halloween Joker ‘chose Tokyo for most kills’