By Dave Andrusko
A deranged former employee at a home for the mentally and physically disabled is accused of murdering 19 people—“nine men between the ages of 41 and 67 and 10 women between the ages of 19 and 70”–in a small town about 25 miles from Tokyo, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
Identified as Satoshi Uematsu, the man later turned himself in to a police station in Sagamihara. “I hope that disabled people will disappear (from this world),” Uematsu told police.
Wielding a knife, Uematsu broke into the facility about two in the morning Tuesday and killed all 19 patients in their sleep. It is Japan’s worst mass killing since World War Two.
The man may have stabbed at least 25 other people in the Kanagawa Prefecture, according to Japanese media.
The suspect was a 26-year-old former employee of the facility who gave himself up to police. The man, Satoshi Uematsu, said in letters he wrote in February that he could “obliterate 470 disabled people”, Kyodo news agency reported.
He said he would kill 260 severely disabled people at two areas in the facility during a night shift, and would not hurt employees.
“My goal is a world in which the severely disabled can be euthanized, with their guardians’ consent, if they are unable to live at home and be active in society,” Uematsu wrote in the two letters given to the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Kyodo reported.
Uematsu was committed to hospital after he expressed a “willingness to kill severely disabled people”, an official in Sagamihara told Reuters. He was freed on March 2 after a doctor deemed he had improved, the official said.
Uematsu lived near the facility, and a neighbor described him as a polite, young man who always greeted him with a smile.
“It would be easier to understand if there had been a warning but there were no signs,” said Akihiro Hasegawa, 73. “We didn’t know the darkness of his heart.”
Yuji Kuroiwa, the governor of Kanagawa prefecture, where the facility is located, told Reuters the suspect apparently began changing about five months ago.
“You could say there were warning signs, but it’s difficult to say if this could have been prevented,” he told reporters.
“This was not an impulsive crime … He went in the dark of the night, opened one door at a time, and stabbed sleeping people one by one,” Kuroiwa said. “I just can’t believe the cruelty of this crime. We need to prevent this from ever happening again.”