A man who killed 19 and injured another 26 at a care home after writing ‘disabled people only create unhappiness’ has been given the death penalty.
Satoshi Uematsu’s massacre at Tsukui Yamayuri-en residential home, in Sagamihara, west of Tokyo, has been called Japan’s worst mass killing since the end of World War Two and has shook the country to the core.
Uematsu, now 30, repeatedly said during the investigation and trial he had no regrets and was trying to help the world by killing people who he thought were burdens. He told medical staff and officials he was influenced by the ideas of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, whose killings of people with disabilities were seen as intended to improve the perceived master race.
The Yokohama District Court sentenced him to death by hanging on Monday. Executions are carried out in high secrecy in Japan, where prisoners are understood to not be informed of the date of their death until the morning.
Uematsu handed himself into police while still armed with bloodied knives on July 26, 2016, after carrying out the attack at the care home where he had worked.
The killer claimed the lives of nine men and 10 women, aged 18 to 70, and injured 24 others who were living at the facility. Two care workers were also wounded.
Since his arrest he has told interviewers he ‘had to do it for the sake of society’ and said people with mental disabilities ‘have no heart’ and there was ‘no point in living’ for them.
During a dramatic trial earlier this year, Uematsu admitted to the killings but his defence pleaded not guilty on the basis that he had been suffering with mental illness and was under the influence of marijuana at the time. However, there were no traces of the drug found in his blood.
Prosecutors insisted he was mentally competent to carry out the attack, which was ‘inhumane’ and left ‘no room for leniency.’
Chief Judge Kiyoshi Aonuma called the crimes ‘extremely heinous and caused damage that is incomparable to any other case’.
‘The attacks were premeditated, and the defendant was acting consistently to achieve his goal,’ Aonuma said, according to NHK public television.
It later emerged that the killings mirrored a plot described in a letter Uematsu had given to Japanese parliament, saying he would kill 470 people with severe disabilities if authorised.
‘I want Japan to be a country where the disabled can be euthanised,’ he said in the letter, which was delivered just months before the attack.
He quit his job at the Yamayuri-en facility after being confronted about the letter and was committed to psychiatric care, but was released within two weeks, officials have said.
Most of the families of the victims have not revealed their identities, reportedly because they did not want to say they had a relative with disabilities, many of which are fearful of similar attacks or discrimination.
However, the mother of a 19-year-old woman who was killed in the attack revealed her name was Miho ahead of the court hearing.
‘Even the most extreme penalty is light for you,’ the mother said according to public broadcaster NHK. ‘I will never forgive you.’
She added: ‘Please bring back my most precious daughter… you’re still alive. It’s not fair. It’s wrong. I demand capital punishment’.