Serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, 45, who abducted, molested and strangled four young girls in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture in 1988 and 1989, was hanged Tuesday along with two other inmates, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said.

Hatoyama has now signed 13 execution orders since taking his post in August, the highest by a single minister since executions resumed in 1993.

“In all three cases, the inmates committed cruel acts for very selfish reasons,” Hatoyama told reporters. “I ordered the executions to protect the rule of law.”

Miyazaki’s lawyers sent Hatoyama a letter last month calling for a delay because they were preparing a plea to reopen the trial.

Hatoyama, however, said he made the decision to execute Miyazaki “with confidence.” He said he considered the letter and other factors, and had “heard the lawyers were preparing, but have not filed, a formal application for a retrial.”

One of Miyazaki’s lawyers, Maiko Tagusari, sent a fax protesting the execution.

Miyazaki’s case was a national sensation for the brutality of his crimes as well as the bizarre behavior he exhibited.

After kidnapping his victims, he strangled them and mutilated and burned some of their corpses. Some reports claimed he ate part of their flesh.

Miyazaki was apprehended in 1989 while attempting a fifth abduction.

Before his capture, he sent a box containing the bones of one of the girls to her house and a letter claiming responsibility signed by a “Yuko Imada.”

In court, he made weird utterings, including: “A rat man appeared when a girl cried.”

Police seized from his house scores of videotapes featuring small girls, reportedly some of his dead victims, who ranged in age from 4 to 7, and animated girl characters, prompting the media to describe him as an “otaku” (nerd) obsessed with “anime” (animation) characters.

After psychiatric tests ordered by the court yielded mixed results, the Tokyo District Court sentenced him to death in July 1997. The Tokyo High Court upheld the sentence in June 2001.

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal in January 2006, finalizing the sentence.

The top court ruled that Miyazaki manifested an extreme personality disorder, but he was mentally competent when he committed the crimes and had no mental disorder that would exempt him from criminal liability.

In a letter to Kyodo News just before the Supreme Court ruling, Miyazaki maintained his innocence and said he thought he “did a good thing.”

Throughout his trials, he offered no apology to the victims or their families.

The two others hanged Tuesday were Yoshio Yamasaki, 73, and Shinji Mutsuda, 37.

Yamasaki was convicted of murdering two people in a life insurance fraud in Kagawa Prefecture in 1985.

Mutsuda was convicted of killing two people to take over a sex service shop owned by one of the victims in Tokyo in 1995.

Yamasaki’s hanging came three years and four months after his death sentence was finalized, while for Mutsuda it was after two years and eight months.

Miyazaki and Mutsuda were executed at the Tokyo Detention House, while Yamasaki was hanged at the Osaka Detention House.

The executions, the most since the 10 ordered by Hatoyama’s predecessor Jinen Nagase, reduced Japan’s death-row population to 102.

Information from Kyodo added

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