Hanging little consolation to slain kids’ parents

Takuma's failure to apologize on way to the gallows means little closure or relief for bereaved

Kyodo

Parents of the eight children slain in the June 2001 Osaka school massacre expressed mixed feelings Tuesday over news that the killer, Mamoru Takuma, was hanged earlier in the day.

Yuki Tsukamoto, whose 7-year-old daughter, Kana, was among the eight children stabbed to death by Takuma at Osaka Kyoiku University Elementary School in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, said the execution will not ease her hatred toward the killer.

“The only change is that I will no longer have to feel frustrated that Takuma is still alive,” Tsukamoto said.

Masako Totsuka, who lost her 6-year-old son, Takahiro, in the massacre, said the execution does not mean anything special to her.

“I regret that (Takuma) lacked a sense of atonement up to the final moment,” she said.

Many of the parents wished to remain anonymous and some declined comment.

The mother of a 7-year-old girl slain by Takuma said the execution brought some sense of closure but no relief.

“(The execution) again brought home the reality that my daughter is no longer alive. I would not have had to feel this way had there been no Takuma,” she said.

A relative of one of the victims said he wondered if Takuma had uttered any apology before he was hanged.

“We made our statements in court, but I wonder if our feelings reached him,” the relative said.

The father of another slain 7-year-old girl said: “Takuma vowed to say everything when he walked to the gallows, so what happened? I’m not sure what I think (of the execution) if he was hanged without offering words of apology.”

The memory of the massacre was still fresh in the school’s neighborhood.

“I cannot forget the image of a boy with a bloodstained shirt running out the school gate. It is only natural that Takuma was executed. I believe (justice was swift) in consideration of the sentiments of the victimized,” said Kimiko Sasaki, 65, the proprietress of a coffee shop near the school.

A 53-year-old woman recalled that a number of children from the Ikeda school escaped into a supermarket where she was working. “I saw blood flowing from the children’s backs. I wanted (Takuma) to feel the same pain suffered by the victims.”

Lawmakers protest

Staff report A nonpartisan group of Diet members opposed to capital punishment on Tuesday protested the executions earlier in the day of two death-row inmates.

One of those put to death was Mamoru Takuma, who massacred eight children at a school in Osaka Prefecture in 2001.

Members of the group handed a written protest to Justice Minister Daizo Nozawa.

The group argued that, since Takuma had been executed less than a year after his death sentence was finalized, there was no possibility of obtaining further details on the case.

Ikuo Yamahana, a group member and House of Representatives lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, pointed out in a news conference that executions had again been carried out while the Diet was not in session and while the justice minister’s term was about to end.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to reshuffle his Cabinet later this month.

Just a week ago, Amnesty International and members of Forum 90, an organization dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty, held a meeting with Nozawa, asking him to halt executions in Japan.

“The justice minister had said at that meeting that he was considering the timing (of the executions) and carefully examining each case,” Makoto Teranaka of Amnesty International told the same news conference.

“But looking at the two executions, it is obvious that he neither went over the cases carefully, nor considered the timing.”

The two executions were the first to take place during Nozawa’s tenure as justice minister.