National / Crime & Legal

Relatives feared Kawasaki stabbing suspect was becoming a social recluse

Kyodo, JIJI

Kawasaki city officials have revealed that relatives of the suspect of Tuesday’s mass stabbing that left a girl and a man dead and injured over a dozen others had been concerned that he was becoming socially isolated.

Officials on Wednesday said the city’s mental health and welfare center had been consulted by relatives that 51-year-old Ryuichi Iwasaki “had not worked for a long time and was becoming reclusive.”

But the center did not contact the man after a request from his aunt and uncle, with whom he lived, out of concern that it could “incite” him, they said.

Iwasaki mostly stayed in his room, hardly speaking to his aunt and uncle in their 80s. The couple gave him some money as he was not working.

He ate his meals, which his aunt would prepare and leave in the refrigerator, in solitude.

In November 2017, other relatives told the center that they wanted the elderly couple to receive home care but were “worried how (Iwasaki) would react” if nonrelatives entered the house, the officials said.

The center spoke multiple times with the couple face-to-face and over the phone, and following the center’s advice, the couple expressed their concerns in a letter in January, which they put it in front of his door.

“I take care of myself. I make my meals and do my washing so how dare you say that I am a social recluse,” Iwasaki told his aunt, according to the officials.

Iwasaki was sent to live with his uncle and aunt after his parents divorced in his early childhood, according to the officials and other sources.

The prefectural police department believes that Iwasaki had scarce contact with others, and that he didn’t own a personal computer nor a mobile phone.

The police searched Iwasaki’s home Wednesday for clues on the motive for the attack. Although they seized dozens of items, including a notebook, descriptions about his motives or a suicide note were not found.

Footage of the attack has been recovered from a school bus dashcam, police said Thursday.

The video shows the suspect approaching a group of Caritas Elementary School students from behind as they waited for their school bus. It also captured the attack and its aftermath, the police said.

Iwasaki, who later died of self-inflicted wounds to his neck, wielded two 30-centimeter-long knives in the assault.

He wore gloves on his hands in an apparent attempt to prevent the knives from slipping.

Police found two smaller knives in a backpack left at the scene and four empty knife boxes at his home Wednesday, they said. Given these findings, police believe that Iwasaki prepared the attack well in advance, with a strong intent to kill a number of people.

Hanako Kuribayashi, an 11-year-old student, and Foreign Ministry official Satoshi Oyama, the 39-year-old father of an unharmed Caritas Elementary School pupil, were killed in the mass stabbing, which took place at around 7:40 a.m. Tuesday.

Seventeen others, mostly children but also a woman who is the mother of a Caritas Elementary School student, were injured in the incident.

Caritas Elementary School remained closed Thursday in the wake of the attack, while a girls’ junior high school and high school run by the same operator reopened after keeping its gates shut the day before.

Police officers and school officials stood watch as children arrived at the reopened school, many escorted by their parents.

National Police Agency Commissioner General Shunichi Kuryu called the incident “extremely malicious” in a news conference Thursday, and said the police as well as government ministries and agencies concerned aim to strengthen safety measures for children.

“We will work with municipalities, schools and parents to reinspect the places in which children gather on their way to and from schools,” he said, adding police will increase patrols.