National / Crime & Legal

Survivors and bereaved mark second anniversary of Sagamihara massacre

Kyodo

Survivors and families of the victims of a fatal stabbing rampage at a care home for the mentally disabled in Kanagawa Prefecture marked the second anniversary of the tragedy on Thursday.

Care home officials and local citizens offered silent prayers at the site of Tsukui Yamayuri En in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, where a former care worker killed 19 residents of the facility and injured 26 others, including two employees, on July 26, 2016.

“Continuing to offer dedicated support to residents will help prevent (memories of) the incident from fading. We must never allow similar incidents to happen,” said Kaoru Irikura, the 61-year-old head of the care home, whose residents are temporarily living at another facility during reconstruction work.

The mourners gathered around 8:30 a.m. in front of a flower stand decorated with paper cranes made by residents.

Satoshi Uematsu, 28, was indicted in February 2017 on six charges including murder, but his trial is not expected to begin until next year.

In a psychiatric evaluation conducted before his indictment, Uematsu was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. He is undergoing a second psychiatric examination at the request of his lawyer.

According to the indictment, Uematsu broke into the care facility early on the day of the massacre for the purpose of murdering residents, many of whom were unable to communicate due to their disabilities.

In interviews, Uematsu has said he thought disabled people are “costly” and that he intended to kill them, believing they “should be eradicated from society.”

While many survivors and their families have not revealed their names due to fears of social prejudice against the disabled, Takashi Ono, 74, went public after his 45-year-old son was injured in the stabbing rampage.

Through numerous seminars, Ono has actively called on people to fight discrimination as he fears the murders will be forgotten if the real identities of the victims remain undisclosed. After the stabbings, police did not identify any of the victims by name.

Ono hopes that by speaking out he will generate more sympathy among the public. “Then we can realize a society in which all people can support each other,” he said.

About 110 residents of the care home at the time of the massacre are now living in a facility in Yokohama. Irikura said they have adjusted to the new environment more than a year after relocating there, though some of them still miss the people who died in the rampage.

“I feel everyone has worked hard to overcome this tragedy,” she said, adding that the care home will continue to support families who will be following court proceedings.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Government is set to dismantle the residential and other buildings of the facility by the end of March next year and will construct new care homes at the site and in other locations in Yokohama.