Japan: man admits nine murders after contacting suicidal people via Twitter

By Gavin Blair in Tokyo

A 29-year-old man has pleaded guilty in a Tokyo court to all charges related to killing and dismembering eight young women and one man in 2017, in a case that has shocked the country.

Takahiro Shiraishi told the court he had contacted women via Twitter and other social media platforms who had expressed suicidal thoughts. He then took them to his apartment in Zama, about 25 miles (40km) south-west of Tokyo, where he sexually assaulted them, robbed some and strangled them.

The murders led authorities in Japan to monitor and clamp down on websites on which people post about suicide. Twitter also introduced rules against promoting suicide and self-harm in response to the case.

The male victim was the boyfriend of one of the women who had confronted Shiraishi at his apartment about her whereabouts and was also killed.

The defendant’s lawyers had argued that the murder charges should be reduced because the victims, who ranged in age from 15 to 27, had wanted to die.

Shiraishi is likely to be sentenced to death if convicted. Perpetrators of multiple murders, robbery-murders or rape-murders in Japan are usually executed, which is carried out by hanging.

The defendant was caught in October 2017 when the brother of one of the victims found messages from Shiraishi when he searched her Twitter account after she had disappeared. He asked a female acquaintance to contact Shiraishi and arrange a meeting and then informed the police.

When the police went to Shiraishi’s apartment he told them the body of the woman they were looking for was in the freezer. They then discovered body parts from all nine victims in cooler boxes and other storage containers. He had allegedly disposed of some body parts.

“I killed them and did some work on the bodies in order to hide the evidence,” Shiraishi told the police, according to the public broadcaster NHK.

Neighbours later told investigators that they had noticed foul smells coming from the apartment after the defendant moved there in August 2017, but had not reported anything.

Shiraishi moved to the area from Tokyo, where he had worked as a scout recruiting women for the sex industry in Kabukichō, the Japanese capital’s biggest red-light district.

The defendant had opened a Twitter account in March 2017 “to contact women contemplating suicide, who he saw as easy targets”, according to prosecutors.

Shiraishi is expected to be sentenced on 15 December.

In Japan, Tell Lifeline can be contacted on 03-5774-0992. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.