New Delhi: A Japanese man infamously known as the “Twitter killer” who murdered nine people after contacting them on the micro-blogging site Twitter has been sentenced to death on Tuesday. The man, Takahiro Shiraishi, 30, was arrested in 2017 after body parts were found in his flat and has admitted to the murders and butchering his victims – all young women but one – who he met on the social media platform.
According to local media reports, nearly 435 people turned up to watch the verdict on Tuesday, despite the court only having 16 seats available for the public. Public support for the death penalty remains high in Japan, one of the few developed nations to retain capital punishment.
However, Shiraishi’s lawyers had argued he should receive a prison sentence because his victims, aged between 15 and 26, expressed suicidal thoughts on social media and so had consented to death.
But on Tuesday “the death sentence was handed down” to Shiraishi, a court official told news agency AFP.
Stating that “none of the nine victims consented to be killed, including silent consent”, the judge said, “It is extremely grave that the lives of nine young people were taken away. The dignity of the victims was trampled upon.”
According to a BBC report, the serial murders first came to light on Halloween that year after police found dismembered body parts in Shiraishi’s flat in the Japanese city of Zama, near Tokyo. The matter also triggered huge debates over how suicides are discussed online. At the time the government also indicated it may introduce new regulations.
Japanese media called it the “house of horrors” after investigators discovered nine heads along with a large number of arm and leg bones stashed in coolers and tool boxes.
Shiraishi used the social media platform to lure suicidal women to his home, saying he could help them die and, in some cases, claimed he would kill himself alongside them. After the victims visited him, he reportedly strangled and dismembered eight women and one man aged 15 to 26 between August and October 2017.
The murders also prompted a change by Twitter, which amended its rules to state users should not “promote or encourage suicide or self-harm”.