Japan knife attack suspect shows no remorse, say police
Satoshi Uematsu (26) accused of killing 19 residents at care home for the disabled
Satoshi Uematsu, the suspect of Tuesday’s knife attack at a home for the mentally disabled in Japan, sits inside a police van as he leaves a police station in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo on Wednesday, July 27th, 2016. Photograph: Naohiko Hatta/Kyodo News via AP
Satoshi Uematsu, who is accused of carrying out Japan’s worst mass killing in its postwar history, grinned in front of TV cameras and told police he felt no remorse, a day after he allegedly knifed 19 people to death at a care home for disabled people.
After being led into an unmarked police van, Uematsu removed the jacket and smiled broadly in scenes that were broadcast widely on TV.
Media reports said he was being transferred from a police cell to the nearby city of Yokohama.
About half a dozen plainclothes police officers later raided Uematsu’s home as reporters and television cameras stood by.
Uematsu had told investigators that he had been driven to carry out the attack by a desire to “save” people with serious disabilities, according to Kyodo news agency.
Police have released few details of the attack, as questions were raised why more was not done to monitor a man who had previously stated his intention to kill people with disabilities.
The identities of the victims have not been released, reportedly at the request of their families.
Uematsu handed himself in to the police in the early hours of Tuesday, less than an hour after he allegedly drove from his home to Tsukui Yamayuri-en care facility, tied up two employees, and attacked residents as they lay in their beds.
Just 40 minutes later, about a third of the facility’s 150 residents were dead – most had had their throats cut – or injured. The dead included nine men and 10 women aged between 19 and 70.
As Japan reeled from its most serious mass killing in decades, it emerged that Uematsu, who had worked at the home until February this year, holds a deep-seated hatred of disabled people.
Earlier this year, he attempted to hand deliver a letter to Japan’s parliament calling for disabled people to be euthanised. In the letter, he demanded that all disabled people be put to death through “a world that allows mercy killing”, media reports said.
He stopped working at the home soon after, but it is not clear if the letter was a factor, or if staff were even aware of it, Japanese media said.
Days after he attempted to deliver the letter, he was committed to a psychiatric hospital when he told colleagues he wanted to kill disabled people. He was released 12 days later after a doctor decided he posed no risk – a decision that has drawn criticism in light of Tuesday’s atrocity.
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper wondered why Uematsu’s involuntary commitment to the hospital ended so quickly, given he had made clear his intentions.
“Involuntary commitment is done forcefully by the authorities . . . If the time period drags on longer than necessary, it becomes a serious violation of human rights,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
“However, there were warning signs before this incident. Was the treatment and outwatch of the man sufficient? It is vital to closely examine the system of support for the man and his family, and the contacts between the medical system and the police.”
The Yomiuri Shimbun called the decision to release Uematsu “appalling”, and called for tighter security at care facilities. “It is a matter of great regret for society that such a serious stabbing incident was allowed to happen,” it said in an editorial.
As a former employee of the care home, Uematsu would have known that only a small number of staff are on duty at night. The facility employs more than 200 people, including part-time staff, with nine of them working on the night of the attack, said Tatsuhisa Hirosue, an official in the welfare division at Kanagawa prefecture, where Sagamihara is located.
“They were working at night and were questioned by police after witnessing graphic violence, which has made them a little emotionally unstable,” he said.