A Japanese court has sentenced a man popularly known as the country’s “Twitter killer” to death for the serial murder of nine people, most of them women, in 2017.
Takahiro Shiraishi was found guilty by the Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court of murdering, dismembering, and storing the bodies of the nine in his apartment near Tokyo, according to Japanese media reports.
Shiraishi recently admitted to the murders in court but the main point of contention in his case became his lawyer’s argument that his charges should be reduced because the victims had expressed suicidal thoughts and gave their “consent” to be killed.
But the presiding Judge Naokuni Yano later ruled that the nine victims did not give their consent to be killed and that Shiraishi was mentally fit to be held responsible for the murders.
Shiraishi is accused of using Twitter to contact victims aged between 15 and 26 who posted online about taking their own lives, telling them he could help them to do so – or even die alongside them. He is also facing trials on charges of rape.
Eight of his nine victims were female, one of them aged 15. The only man Hiraishi killed had a spat with him while questioning him about the whereabouts of his girlfriend, Japanese media reported.
Hiraishi was detained in 2017 when police were investigating the disappearance of a 23-year-old woman who had reportedly tweeted about wanting to kill herself and became one of Hiraishi’s victims. When the police reached his flat in the Japanese city of Zama, near Tokyo, they discovered dismembered body parts and bones.
The serial killings sent shock waves across the country and triggered a debate around the safety of discussing mental health and suicide on social media. After the incident, Twitter also came up with new guidelines to state that the content posted on the site should not “promote or encourage suicide or self-harm”.
Japan has the highest suicide rate among the Group of Seven industrialised nations, with more than 20,000 people taking their lives annually. However, the rate has been falling since it peaked in 2003.
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