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Sacked man who stabbed 19 patients to death 'thought disabled should be killed'

Published 26/07/2016

Police investigators cover the entrance of the Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the disabled where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack, with a blue sheet in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Police investigators cover the entrance of the Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the disabled where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack, with a blue sheet in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Police officers stand guard at the main gate of Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the disabled where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Police officers stand guard at the main gate of Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the disabled where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Ambulance crew and police officers are seen outside a facility for the handicapped where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack Tuesday, July 26, 2016, in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo. (Kyodo News via AP)
Police investigators cover the entrance of the Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the disabled where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack, with a blue sheet in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Police investigators cover the entrance of the Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the disabled where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack, with a blue sheet in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Ambulance crews and firefighters outside the centre (Kyodo News/AP)
Medics attend the scene of the knife attack (Kyodo News/AP)

A Japanese man who went on a stabbing rampage at a facility for the mentally disabled, killing 19 people and injuring 25 others, appears to have been fuelled by hatred.

Satoshi Uematsu, 26, had been sacked from the unit and had reportedly sent a letter to Parliament outlining his bloody plan.

The 40-minute attack in the early hours of Tuesday was the deadliest mass killing in Japan in decades.

Twenty of the wounded were seriously injured.

Uematsu drove up in a black car, carrying several knives to the Tsukui Yamayuri-en facility in Sagamihara, 30 miles (50km) west of Tokyo, according to security camera footage broadcast on TV news programmes.

He broke in by shattering a window at 2.10am, according to a prefectural health official, and then set about slashing the patients' throats.

Details of the attack, and whether the victims were asleep or otherwise helpless, were not immediately known, although a cryptic letter he sent to Japan's Parliament in February gave a glimpse into Uematsu's dark turmoil.

He calmly turned himself in about two hours after the attack, police said.

Tsukui Yamayuri-en, which means mountain lily garden, was a facility Uematsu knew well, having worked there since 2012 until he was fired in February.

He knew the staffing at the unit for about 150 patients would be down to just a handful in the early hours of the morning, Japanese media reports said.

Not much is known yet about his background, but Uematsu once dreamed of becoming a teacher. In two group photos posted on Facebook, he looks happy, smiling widely with other young men.

"It was so much fun today. Thank you, all. Now I am 23, but please be friends forever," a 2013 post says.

But somewhere along the way, things went terribly awry.

Uematsu began to tell people around him that disabled people needed to be killed.

In February, he tried to hand-deliver a letter he wrote to Parliament's lower house speaker demanding all disabled people be put to death through "a world that allows for mercy killing", Kyodo news agency and TBS TV reported.

Uematsu boasted in the letter that he had the ability to kill 470 disabled people in what he called was "a revolution", and outlined an attack on two facilities, after which he said he would turn himself in.

He also asked he be judged innocent on grounds of insanity, be given 500 million yen (£3.6 million) in aid and plastic surgery so he could lead a normal life afterwards.

The letter was reprinted by Kyodo after the attack.

"My reasoning is that I may be able to revitalise the world economy and I thought it may be possible to prevent World War III," the rambling letter says.

The letter, pased to Tokyo police, included Uematsu's name, address and telephone number, and reports of his threats were relayed to local police where Uematsu lived, Kyodo said.

Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa apologised for having failed to act on the warning signs.

From his time working at the facility, Uematsu was known to people in the area, and some said he was so polite and upstanding that they found the news shocking.

Akihiro Hasegawa, who lived next door to Uematsu, said he heard Uematsu had got into trouble with the facility, initially over sporting a tattoo, often frowned upon in mainstream Japanese society because of its association with criminal groups.

"He was just an ordinary young fellow," he said.

Yasuyuki Deguchi, a criminologist, said Uematsu's actions were typical of someone who bears a grudge and seeks revenge, because it appeared he planned out the attack, and then he turned himself into police.

"Accomplishing his goal was all he wanted," Mr Deguchi said on TV Asahi.

Michael Gillan Peckitt, a lecturer in clinical philosophy at Osaka University in central Japan, and an expert on disabled people's issues in Japan, said the attack speaks more about Uematsu than the treatment of the disabled in Japan.

"It highlights the need for an early-intervention system in the Japanese mental health system. Someone doesn't get to that state without some symptoms of mental illness," he said.

Mass killings are rare in Japan. Because of the country's extremely strict gun-control laws, any attacker usually resorts to stabbings. In 2008, seven people were killed by a man who slammed a truck into a crowd of people in central Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district and then stabbed passers-by.

In 2001, a man killed eight children and injured 13 others in a knife attack at an elementary school in the city of Osaka. The incident shocked Japan and led to increased security at schools.

As recently as earlier this month, a man stabbed four people at a library in north-eastern Japan, allegedly over their improper handling of his questions, although no-one died.

In 2010, 14 people were injured by an unemployed man who stabbed and beat up passengers on two public buses outside a Japanese train station in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 25 miles (40km) north-east of Tokyo.

AP

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