Police plan arrest over stabbings

Kyodo News

Police planned Sunday to arrest a 46-year-old man on suspicion of murdering a former vice health and welfare minister and his wife, investigative sources said.

Takeshi Koizumi was arrested on suspicion of a weapons violation after he turned himself in Saturday evening, reportedly saying he murdered the couple in Saitama and assaulted the wife of another former vice health minister in Tokyo.

“I was angry because my pet was killed by a health care center in the past,” Koizumi was quoted by police sources as saying.

Police on Sunday searched Koizumi’s apartment in Saitama.

When he turned himself in to the Tokyo police, he had two bloodstained knives.

Koizumi went to the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters in the Kasumigaseki district at around 9:20 p.m. in a minivehicle, which had a license plate indicating it was a rental car. He was later taken to a police station in Chiyoda Ward for questioning.

Police said eight knives were found in the car, along with bloodstained gloves.

Referring to one of the two bloody knives, Koizumi was quoted as telling the police it was his.

A joint investigative team of the Tokyo and Saitama police had been looking into the possibility that discontent over pensions could be behind the high-profile attacks, as both former vice ministers were involved in pension policy.

Koizumi, who is registered as a resident of the city of Saitama and is about 165 cm tall, had eight survival knives, a pair of sneakers and a cardboard box in the car when he turned himself in. Of the two bloodstained knives, one had a 33-long-cm blade and the other a 20-cm-long blade.

Police said one of the sneakers matched a print found near the house of former vice health minister Kenji Yoshihara, whose wife was stabbed at their home in Nakano Ward, Tokyo.

A delivery slip addressed to Yoshihara was attached to the cardboard box found in the car, police said.

Koizumi reportedly told the police that he had previously worked as a parcel delivery man and has been switching jobs frequently.

Prime Minister Taro Aso, attending an international meeting in Lima, commented Saturday afternoon Lima time on the arrest, saying, “If he really is the culprit, it’s unforgivable.”

Former Vice Health and Welfare Minister Takehiko Yamaguchi, 66, and his wife, Michiko, 61, were found dead Tuesday morning in their home in Saitama, suffering multiple stab wounds to their chests. They are believed to have been murdered Monday.

Later Tuesday, Yoshihara’s wife, Yasuko, 72, suffered serious wounds after being stabbed at the entrance of their home by a man dressed as a delivery man. Her husband was not home at the time.

The Tokyo and Saitama police had said they were treating the incidents as possible serial “terror” attacks against former health and welfare ministry bureaucrats stemming from widespread public resentment over problems with the pension system.

Both Yamaguchi and Yoshihara served as heads of the former Health and Welfare Ministry’s Pension Bureau. People living in the neighborhoods where the stabbings took place expressed relief.

Numerous police officers are still investigating the two locations where the stabbings took place.

In Nakano Ward near the attack on the Yoshiharas, children played at a park.

“I had been hesitant to come here, but now I feel safer,” said a 31-year-old woman who was playing with her 1-year-old son.

A driver for a delivery company who frequents the neighborhood said many of his customers have been cautious about receiving parcels, which increases delivery times.

“The situation won’t change even after the suspect is arrested,” he said.

“Apparently, people who are mentally unstable or harbor a grudge against others are increasing,” said Masakichi Suzuki, 76, who lives near the Yamaguchi residence. “I can’t be happy just because the incident seems to be resolved.”

Suspect’s e-mail

Before Takeshi Koizumi turned himself in to police over the slayings of a former vice health minister and his wife, he sent an e-mail to Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc. denying media reports that his acts were triggered by the pension fiasco, the broadcaster said Sunday.

According to TBS, the e-mail was sent at 7:09 p.m. Saturday, a few hours before Koizumi, 46, turned himself in at a police station at around 9:20 p.m.

“This is not a pension terrorism attack!” the e-mail started off.

“It is revenge for having ‘my family’ killed by a health care center 34 years ago. They are still killing more then 500,000 innocent pets every year,” it said. “They’ll get payback for the meaningless killings.”

Following the attacks, which included the stabbing of the wife of another former health and welfare official, the media widely reported speculation by police that a possible motive was revenge for the pension record scandal.

Koizumi, arrested Sunday for illegal possession of weapons, reportedly told police he was angry because his pet was killed by a health care center in the past.

His 77-year-old father in Yamaguchi Prefecture said he took a stray dog the family was keeping to a health care center when Koizumi was in elementary school because it barked too much.

The e-mail also stated that he was left-handed, apparently in protest of some media reports that said the culprit was right-handed, that he had used the same knives in the Saitama and Tokyo stabbings.

A TBS employee recognized the e-mail on Sunday morning and the station began reporting on it at noon. The broadcaster said it will submit the e-mail as evidence if requested by police.

“Health care centers are run by prefectural and municipal governments,” said Jungoro Kondo, who was vice health minister between 2001 and 2002. “It is a gross misunderstanding that they are managed by the health and welfare ministry.”

According to the Environment Ministry, some 340,000 dogs and cats were put to sleep by local governments across the nation in fiscal 2006 after no new owners came forward.