Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world and the mass killing is believed to be the nation’s worst since 1938, when a man armed with an axe, sword and rifle went on a rampage that left 30 people dead. Mass killings in Japan are rare, but when they do occur, usually knives are used, rather than guns.
As more details have emerged from his alleged confession to police, the disbelief grows at how anyone could have targeted such vulnerable people.
For 26-year-old suspect Satoshi Uematsu, who turned himself in after allegedly killing 19 people and injuring 26 others at the Tsukui Yamayuri En facility, mounting evidence suggests there were plenty.
Authorities say the man had worked at the facility on the outskirts of Tokyo earlier this year before being fired for yet-unclear reasons. In the letter he said he’d attack the center at night, tie up staff, and then turn himself in. Nine men and 10 women, ranging in age from 18 to 70, were killed in the attack. Another 25 people were injured, 20 seriously.
The suspect calmly turned himself in about two hours after the attack, police said. “I did it”, he told police.
According to a local official who spoke with Reuters, police found a bag with several knives, at least one of which was stained with blood. He was immediately arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and unlawful entry to a building.
Local media here also quoted disbelief and condolences coming from overseas, including that from the US who offered its deepest condolences for the families whose loved ones were killed in the horrific attack. “Poor souls”, one tweet reads. At least one media report said Uematsu had called for euthanasia of the severely disabled.
None of the attacks involved firearms.
Uematsu had a history of mental illness, and was committed to a psychiatric facility in February.
The Sagamihara fire department has said 19 people were killed in the attack Tuesday morning.
“I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanized, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is hard for the person to carry out household and social activities”, the letter reportedly said. Eight staff members are regularly on duty overnight.
“I did it. It’s better that the handicapped disappear”, the man reportedly told police.
He was apparently allowed to go home to his house at the bottom of a dead-end road here, overlooking lush green fields. “It is something that could happen anywhere, and these cases always have to do with human relationships”, said Naomi Takano, who lives nearby. “I was astonished, that’s the only thing I can say”.
Because such massacres are rare, Japan has become overconfident about its safety, a Japanese criminologist said.
Officials have ruled out any link to terrorism.
Thirteen people were killed and thousands of commuters fell ill in a crime that deeply dented the national sense of security. “As the government, we will do everything to get to the bottom of the truth”.
Such bloodshed is highly unusual in Japan, which had only one gun death previous year. The last similar incident was in 2008.
But Tuesday’s attack was the worst since World War Two.