Man who killed 19 in Japan knife attack had threatened disabled

Satoshi Uematsu (26) wrote: ‘My goal is a world in which the severely disabled can be euthanised’

Residents react to Japan's worst mass killing in decades carried out by knife-wielding man at a facility for the disabled. Video: Reuters

 

The man blamed for Japan’s worst mass murder in decades had threatened for months to kill disabled people and said he wanted the government to legalise euthanasia.

His threats apparently culminated early on Tuesday in a horrific attack on a residential care home for the mentally disabled near Tokyo, which left at least 19 people dead and dozens injured.

Police have named the only suspect as Satoshi Uematsu (26). They say he walked into the nearest police station about 1km away after the killing spree ended.

Uematsu reportedly used a hammer to break into the weakly guarded facility in the early hours of Tuesday morning and methodically slashed or stabbed more than 40 people. Most of the stab wounds were to his victims’ necks and faces, say police. None of the staff at the home were targeted.

The suspect was wearing a black T-shirt and was carrying a bag full of knives and other tools, some bloodstained, when he turned up at the police station, according to the Mainichi newspaper.

Uematsu said he was a former staffer at the home who had been fired in February. According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, he told police: “I want to get rid of the disabled from this world.”

In February he sent letters to politicians, saying he would “obliterate” disabled people. “My goal is a world in which the severely disabled can be euthanised, with their guardians’ consent, if they are unable to live at home and be active in society,” he wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Kyodo news agency. The agency says he cited a figure of “470 disabled” for execution.

The care home is run by a local authority and looks after about 150 people, many elderly. It occupies three hectares of a quiet town called Tsukui in the Sagamihara district, about an hour’s drive west of central Tokyo.

Mountains and lakes ring the area, which is a popular scenic spot, rarely touched by crime. “None of us can believe that such a terrible event has come to this small place,” said Koichi Nakajima, a local resident.

Hospitalised

He was discharged two weeks later on March 2nd, apparently with a clean bill of mental health, but put under the care of his family. The release is likely to raise questions about why doctors and police did not take him more seriously.

His alleged victims include nine women and 10 men, one of whom was 70 years old. Several others are being treated at local hospitals for what are described as life-threatening injuries.

The killings have stunned a country with probably the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world. Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, called them “heart-wrenching and shocking” in his regular briefing to reporters on Tuesday.

Neighbours and friends interviewed by the media said Uematsu appeared well liked and had plenty of friends. A photograph on his Facebook account, which has since been taken down, showed him clowning around happily at a party.

Reports say he was praised for being good with children when he spent a month as a trainee teacher at a Sagamihara school in 2011. “Nobody can understand why this happened,” said a neighbour interviewed on TBS, a broadcaster. “It’s beyond comprehension.”