National / Crime & Legal

Despite obvious signs, care home killer slipped through the cracks

Kyodo, Staff Report

Satoshi Uematsu exhibited disturbing behavior before Tuesday’s massacre at a care home, delivering an ominous euthanasia letter to House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima and telling co-workers and the police he intended to kill disabled people, prompting his forced hospitalization.

But despite obvious signs the suspect posed a risk to those in his charge, 19 people at the Tsukui Yamayuri En facility were murdered and 26 were injured, leaving the public and authorities wondering whether more could have been done to stop him.

“I hope the world will become more peaceful,” Twitter user @tenka333 — thought to be Uematsu — tweeted at 2:50 a.m. Tuesday, around the time he was stalking the halls of the care home, slashing the necks of residents as they slept.

A photograph of a someone resembling Uematsu in a black suit, white shirt and tie accompanied the tweet.

In February, Uematsu tried to hand-deliver a letter to Oshima at his official residence in Tokyo.

“I am able to kill a total of 470 people with disabilities,” a copy of the letter, obtained by Kyodo News, read.

“My goal is to create a world where euthanasia is allowed for people with multiple disabilities — in cases where it is extremely difficult for them to live at home and be socially active — with the consent of their guardians.”

He identified two care facilities, including the one attacked Tuesday, as his targets.

The hand-written letter included his name, address and phone number.

Uematsu said that he was aware his idea was outrageous, but after working with the patients’ exhausted parents and unenthusiastic care staffers, he said he hoped to “contribute to Japanese society and the world.”

The letter also went into detail on how he would do it, saying he would attack at night when fewer workers were on duty, bound them with zip ties, slaughter the 260 patients and then turn himself in.

The events of Tuesday differed in only one respect: He only attacked one facility.

“A revolution is needed now. It is about time to take this indispensable yet difficult step for the sake of all mankind,” he wrote. “It will be a huge step forward for Japan.”

He then spelled out how he hoped to be treated after his arrest: up to two years of detention and then acquittal after being judged mentally incompetent. He would then demand  a new identity, plastic surgery and ¥500 million to fund a new life, the letter said.

A Lower House official received the letter on Feb. 14 and reported it to police the same day. The Tokyo police in turn informed their counterparts in Kanagawa Prefecture, where Uematsu lives.

The Kanagawa police warned Uematsu’s father, who lives in Tokyo, to keep a close eye on him.

Reacting to the events this week, a police officer at Kojimachi Police Station, near Oshima’s official residence, said: “We did all we could.”

A few days later on Feb. 18, Uematsu made similar remarks to his co-workers at Tsukui Yamayuri En. This caused alarm because he had never said such things or caused any kind of trouble before, they said this week.

“It seems he started thinking that way all of a sudden and I have no clue why,” the manager said.

Uematsu quit the next day. The police, meanwhile, reported the case to the Sagamihara Municipal Government, which decided to commit Uematsu to a mental hospital out of concern he could harm others.

At the hospital, he tested positive for marijuana and was diagnosed with marijuana-induced psychosis and paranoid disorder. But he was not diagnosed as an addict and was released on March 2.

He appeared to regret what he had done and expressed remorse. A city official quoted him as saying, “There was something wrong with me.”

According to the Narcotics Control Law, doctors are obliged to report drug addicts to the governor. If Uematsu had been diagnosed as one, the Kanagawa Prefectural Government could have prolonged his stay for further treatment.

Two days after his release, police found that Uematsu was staying with his parents and requested that they be kept informed about his behavior.

The Sagamihara Municipal Government also had planned to check on him but could not due to lack of staff.