Japanese man accused of killing 19 disabled people sentenced to death

In a photo taken on July 26, 2016, 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. PHOTO: REUTERS

YOKOHAMA (REUTERS, AFP) - A Japanese man was sentenced to death on Monday (March 16) for killing 19 disabled people in a knife-wielding rampage in 2016, one of post-war Japan's worst mass killings.

Satoshi Uematsu, 30, has admitted to stabbing to death or injuring the victims at a care centre for people with mental disabilities. He had once worked in the facility, located in Sagamihara, south-west of Tokyo.

His lawyers had entered a plea of not guilty, arguing that the 30-year-old was suffering a "mental disorder" linked to his use of marijuana.

But prosecutors say Uematsu was capable of taking responsibility for the attack at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en centre in Sagamihara town and should be executed for his crimes.

The rampage was "inhumane" and left "no room for leniency", prosecutors argued last month.

Uematsu's behaviour in court, including apparently trying to put something in his mouth, disrupted proceedings in the first hearing in January, with the judge calling a recess and then resuming without him.

He had reportedly said he will not appeal whatever decision the court hands down. But he had also defended himself, arguing that his actions do not deserve the death penalty.

Uematsu reportedly said he wanted to eradicate all disabled people in the horrifying attack that also left 26 people wounded. He turned himself in to police after the assault, carrying bloodied knives.

It later emerged he had left his job at the home just months earlier and had been forcibly hospitalised after telling colleagues he intended to kill disabled people at the centre.

Uematsu had been discharged after 12 days when a doctor decided he was not a threat. He had also written a letter outlining plans to attack the home, claiming "disabled people only create unhappiness".


Among the few victims to be identified publicly was a 19-year-old woman, Miho, whose mother had said at the court that Uematsu "didn't need a future".

"I hate you so much. I want to rip you apart. Even the most extreme penalty is light for you. I will never forgive you," her mother said, according to public broadcaster NHK.

"Please bring back my most precious daughter... You're still alive. It's not fair. It's wrong."

"I demand capital punishment," she added.

Uematsu has shown no remorse for the attack, telling Japan's Mainichi Shimbun daily that people with mental disabilities "have no heart", and for them "there's no point in living".

"I had to do it for the sake of society," he said.

Uematsu's beliefs shocked Japan, with experts and activists raising questions about whether others might hold similar views.

Japan has been making efforts to increase accessibility - particularly in Tokyo ahead of this year's Paralympic Games - and activists hailed last year's election of two disabled lawmakers. But some critics feel the country still falls short of fully integrating people with disabilities.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.