A 30-year-old Japanese man dubbed the “Twitter killer” after he lured suicidal women to his home and then drugged, robbed, raped, murdered and dismembered them has been sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court Tachikawa.
Takahiro Shiraishi, a former scout for the sex industry, was arrested in the city of Zama on Halloween 2017 by police investigating the disappearance of a 23-year-old woman who posted about suicide on Twitter. At his home, dubbed the “house of horrors,” police found nine heads and 240 bones with the flesh scraped off stashed away in coolers and toolboxes in his bedroom.
Shiraishi confessed to all nine murders. “There is no doubt that I sliced up the bodies in my bathroom with the intention of destroying evidence,” he told investigators, according to the Japanese Straits Times. “I disposed of their flesh and internal organs like garbage, but kept their bones out of fear that I would be caught.”
Investigators also found a trail of Twitter DMs in which Shiraishi, using the handle “hangman,” persuaded suicidal women to visit his apartment on the promise he would help them die. His nine victims, between the ages of 15 and 26, include eight women and one man who was a friend of one of his victims, who police say likely discovered his crimes.
All of the victims showed signs of strangulation before they were decapitated, according to Japan's Kyodo news agency.
During a high-profile trial that captivated Japan, Shiraishi’s lawyers argued his victims had consented to their murders, adding that any signs of struggle were simply “conditional reflexes.”
Shiraishi later admitted that in fact, he had killed without asking his victims. “I killed them for financial reasons and to satisfy my sexual desires,” he said in court. “There was no consent.”
Shiraishi testified in court over the course of the lengthy trial. “I am sorry for having killed some of the victims, with whom I spent a lot of time, and would like to apologize to these families,” he said. “But for the others, I don’t really feel a deep sense of regret. In any case, I am sorry only because I failed when I got caught. If I wasn’t arrested, I will not be regretting anything.”
Judge Naokuni Yano, who delivered the verdict Tuesday, said that “none of the victims agreed to be killed” and added, “All the murders were well-planned and the modus operandi makes it one of the most malicious murders ever in the history of crime. It caused massive shock and anxiety to a society where the use of social media is commonplace.”
The father of a 25-year-0ld victim testified last month that he will “never forgive Shiraishi even if he dies,” according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. “Even now, when I see a woman of my daughter’s age, I mistake her for my daughter. This pain will never go away. Give her back to me.”
The high-profile serial murder case has opened a debate in Japan about whether social media and websites that encourage suicide should be regulated. Twitter amended its rules to Japanese users after Shiraishi’s arrest, adding that users should “not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm.”
In Japan, the death penalty is carried out by hanging. A date has not been set yet for Shiraishi’s death.