National / Crime & Legal

Man held in stabbing spree had previously squabbled with victims

Kyodo

Police investigating the stabbing rampage on Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture said Tuesday the family of one of the victims had sought police help nine times in February and March.

The police on Monday arrested Tatsuhiko Hirano, a 40-year-old unemployed man, for allegedly stabbing five of his neighbors to death in Sumoto, the island’s main city.

On Tuesday the charges against him were changed from attempted murder to murder and the police sent his case to the public prosecutor’s office.

Tatsuhiko Hirano allegedly stabbed Takeshi Hirano, 82, and his wife, Tsuneko, 79, as well as Hiroyuki Hirano, 62, his wife, Masako, 59, and his mother, Shizuko, 84.

The five victims were not related to the suspect even though they had the same surname.

According to the Hyogo Prefectural Police, the daughter of Takeshi Hirano contacted them on Feb. 14 saying that his grandson had been drawn into a quarrel with the suspect, who eventually took photos of the grandson as their quarrel escalated.

In response to the call, the police suggested they would issue a warning to Tatsuhiko Hirano, but when the woman said she didn’t want to pursue the warning, they only sent a police car to patrol the area.

By March 3, Takeshi Hirano and his family members contacted police several times to report they had seen the suspect wandering around their house. On March 3, photos of Takeshi Hirano’s grandson were found on the Internet, apparently posted by the suspect.

The family requested police to pursue criminal charges but were advised instead on how to delete the uploaded content.

On the following day, Takeshi Hirano’s daughter reportedly sought legal advice regarding troubles with a neighbor, using a free consultation service offered by the city of Sumoto.

The suspect’s Facebook and Twitter accounts reportedly had comments defaming people, including those who were slain.

All the victims had multiple stabs and cuts, according to investigative sources, indicating that the perpetrator had strong intent to kill.

According to the police, Tatsuhiko Hirano has admitted he stabbed the victims but said he wouldn’t speak until he had a lawyer.

Searching his house Monday, the police reportedly found several knives and other objects believed have been used in the stabbing spree. They said they were awaiting results of analysis to confirm whether there was blood on any of the objects.

The assaults occurred in a small town in which residents know each other well, local people said.

The suspect lived around 100 meters away from the victims’ houses with his father and had rarely been seen by neighbors recently, a neighbor said.