National / Crime & Legal

Sagamihara knife man searched for details about insanity online

Kyodo

The alleged perpetrator of a deadly knife rampage in July at a care facility for the disabled searched online for terms related to psychiatric evaluation and insanity for several months prior to the attack, investigative sources have said.

The police are looking into the possibility that Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old former employee of the facility in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, may have planned the rampage that left 19 people dead after studying cases in which suspects were not held responsible following psychiatric evaluations, as well as the judicial procedures for such cases.

On Wednesday, the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office said it had placed the suspect in detention for a psychiatric assessment. The special detention, approved by the Yokohama District Court, is set to last about four months through late January.

Prosecutors are expected to decide on whether they can indict Uematsu over the rampage after weighing the outcome of the evaluation. Although he has been served with several arrest warrants since the incident in July, prosecutors have yet to formally charge him. Traces of marijuana were found in a urine test after his arrest.

The sources said Uematsu conducted searches such as “psychiatric evaluation outcome,” “mass killing” and “how to be acquitted” on his cellphone over a period of several months before the incident. He also looked into previous mass killings, including one in Tokyo’s Akihabara district in June 2008 in which seven people were killed in a stabbing rampage, they said.

In a letter he asked to be delivered to the speaker of the House of Representatives in February, Uematsu wrote, “Please limit my detention after arrest to two years at most and let me lead a free life after that” and “(I want to be) acquitted due to insanity.”

Shortly after the rampage at the Tsukui Yamayuri En facility on July 26, Uematsu turned himself in at a local police station. Ten women and nine men were killed, while 27 others were injured.

Earlier this year, Uematsu was committed to a mental hospital for about 10 days after he was diagnosed with marijuana-induced psychosis. The hospitalization was triggered by abusive comments made by the suspect regarding the care facility residents, who are mentally disabled.

Also on Wednesday, a third-party panel established by the Kanagawa Prefecture held its first meeting to discuss measures to ensure such an attack does not happen again. The panel will compile a report by November.

“I wonder whether there was any way to prevent the incident from happening,” said Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa. “I hope the panel will inspect how information was shared among relevant parties and whether safety measures were sufficient so that we can come up with ways to prevent a recurrence.”

The panel comprises disability experts and lawyers. They will go through reports that the care facility operator submitted to the prefecture as well as reports a health ministry team has compiled.