Japan mass killing suspect 'suddenly changed' in Feb

Japan mass killing suspect 'suddenly changed' in Feb
Satoshi Uematsu, suspected of a deadly attack at a facility for the disabled, is seen inside a police car as he is taken to prosecutors, at Tsukui police station in Sagamihara, Japan.
PHOTO: Reuters

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa - The suspect in a mass killing Tuesday at a welfare facility for intellectually disabled people in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, suddenly changed his attitude toward the facility's staff and residents beginning around February, according to the director of the facility, where the suspect used to work.

Satoshi Uematsu, 26, was arrested on suspicion of fatally stabbing 19 people and injuring 26 at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en facility.

The facility's director said at a press conference Wednesday that Uematsu began making a series of prejudiced remarks, such as, "[Disabled people] should die." The press conference, held by director Kaoru Irikura, 59, and others who belong to Kanagawa Kyodo-kai, a social welfare corporation that operates the facility, was the first since the incident occurred.

It was also learned that five of the eight workers on the night shift when the incident occurred were tied up with zip ties, while two others did not encounter Uematsu and one fled from the site.

According to those at the press conference, Uematsu began making strange remarks as he was talking with his boss and colleagues around February, saying for example, "It's better all the disabled disappear." Uematsu then voluntarily quit his job on Feb. 19.

"He hadn't made such ideological remarks before then. I got an impression that he suddenly had changed," the director said.

According to investigative sources, the suspect bound to guardrails in the corridors the fingers and arms of two of the five facility workers who were tied with zip ties, and left them incapable of moving. The two who did not cross paths with Uematsu were in areas the suspect did not go during his attack.

The Kanagawa prefectural police searched Uematsu's house on Wednesday. They seized part of a plant leaf in a small bag and will check the leaf, suspecting it is a kind of cannabis, the sources said. They also conducted mandatory urine collection on Uematsu based on a warrant issued by a court to see if the suspect was using cannabis.

Uematsu was quoted as telling police after the arrest that he had not used any cannabis. He gave a urine sample to be tested for stimulant and narcotic drugs, but he did not want a urine sample to be tested for cannabis.

He was confirmed positive for cannabis use in a urine test in February when he was ordered to be hospitalised as an emergency measure.

Meanwhile, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry intends to start discussing ways to expand support for those who leave care after compulsory hospitalisation, according to sources. This comes in response to the recent mass murder in Kanagawa Prefecture, in which the suspect had earlier been released from compulsory hospitalisation. The ministry plans to seek advice from experts in its discussions on the issue.

Under the law on mental health and welfare, prefectural governors and mayors of government-designated cities have the authority to hospitalise - without patients' consent - those who are diagnosed by appointed doctors as being in danger of harming themselves or other people. When patients are diagnosed as no longer posing a threat to themselves or other people, the governors and mayors can decide to lift the hospitalisation order.

Uematsu was under compulsory hospitalisation in February and was discharged in March.

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