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Care home massacre probed as mercy killing

Kyodo

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The suspect in Japan’s worst mass murder in postwar history tied up his co-workers before methodically cutting the throats of his victims in what appeared to be a frenzied mission of mercy, investigative sources said.

Tuesday’s knife attack at the Tsukui Yamayuri En care home for people with disabilities in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, left 19 dead and 26 injured.

Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old former employee of the facility, allegedly sliced the residents’ necks as they slept early Tuesday, stabbing some in the chest or slashing their throats, the sources said.

There were fears the death toll would rise after hospitals said many of the injured were in critical condition. The investigative sources said some of their wounds were 10 cm deep.

Uematsu told police he was trying to “save” people with multiple disabilities and had “no remorse” for what he did.

According to the sources, he broke into the Tsukui Yamayuri En facility at around 2 a.m. Tuesday and sought to buy time by restraining members of staff with zip ties, causing a delay of about 40 minutes before the police could be alerted.

Uematsu told investigators that he “tied up” the staffers and made them hand him over keys to the parts of the building where the residents lived. The 19 victims were all found in the residential areas, which are divided into eight sectors that have self-locking doors.

Uematsu was arrested Tuesday after turning himself in. He was handed to prosecutors Wednesday morning and will face murder charges.

Photographed while getting into the back seat of a car at Tsukui Police Station, Uematsu appeared to smile for the cameras.

Despite declaring no remorse for his actions, Uematsu appeared to express one regret: “I wanted to apologize from the bottom of my heart to the bereaved families as I made them suddenly part with” the victims, the investigative sources quoted him saying.

Uematsu earlier told investigators that “it would be better if the disabled disappeared.” He also said he stabbed “people who could not communicate well.”

The nine men and 10 women killed ranged in age from 19 to 70. Police have not disclosed their names on the grounds that their relatives do not wish to have them identified due to their disabilities.

Police believe Uematsu intended to commit murder. The attack was likely premeditated, taking advantage of his more than three years of working experience at the facility.

The local resident was carrying three knives in a bag, all of them bloodstained, when he arrived at Tsukui Police Station to turn himself in.

Two more knives, also bloodstained, were found Tuesday at the 30,000-sq.-meter site.

Officers searched Uematsu’s house in Sagamihara on Wednesday as people laid flowers at the entrance of the care facility to mourn the victims.

“People with disabilities who are most vulnerable should not be victimized like this,” said Toshiyuki Hokage, 29, who came to lay yellow flowers at the entrance. “I am worried that discrimination toward people with disabilities might spread after this incident.”

“I can’t help feeling anger (at the suspect) for taking so many lives,” the head of a social welfare corporation that runs the facility said in a news conference Wednesday. “I deeply apologize for (putting the facility in danger of) losing public trust.”