TOKYO • Takahiro Shiraishi, the Japanese man who has reportedly confessed to murdering and cutting up nine young people in his Tokyo bathroom, was said to be a quiet schoolboy who would grow up to work on the fringes of the sex industry.
Pictures of the 27-year-old show an ordinary-looking man with neat, dark hair and glasses, who lived in a nondescript flat in a quiet residential street in one of Tokyo's endless sprawling suburbs.
But on the morning of Halloween, police uncovered a grisly house of horrors behind Shiraishi's front door: nine dismembered bodies with as many as 240 bone parts stashed in coolers and tool boxes, sprinkled with cat litter in a bid to hide the evidence.
People in the neighbourhood where he grew up remembered him as a "quiet child who was able to socialise with neighbours".
At school, his grades were far from stellar, but he was an attentive pupil who "didn't especially stand out but was not a gloomy character either", according to a former classmate cited in the Asahi Shimbun.
Shiraishi enjoyed athletics and baseball and was "a good listener rather than someone who would speak about himself", another school contemporary told a local Tokyo paper.
After graduating from high school in 2009, Shiraishi got a full-time job at a supermarket but quit just over two years later.
At that point, he began to work as a scout for sex parlours in Kabukicho, Tokyo's biggest red-light district, seeking to lure young women into working in the clubs there.
In February, he was arrested and eventually handed a suspended jail sentence for recruiting a young woman for a sex shop in the full knowledge that she would be pressed into prostitution.
Shiraishi appeared to have a close relationship with his father, a designer of car parts, after his mother and younger sister left to live closer to the girl's school in central Tokyo.
And a woman who said she was in a relationship with him until summer last year described him as a "gentle character" who was "never angry with women".
"When I told him that I wanted to break up, he hugged me and said something like 'Don't go,'" the woman told Fuji TV.
Things started going downhill for Shiraishi around June this year when he reportedly told his father: "I don't know why I'm alive."
On Aug 22, he moved into the apartment in Zama, a south-western suburb of Tokyo, that would become the apparent scene of multiple murders.
He set up several Twitter accounts, advertising himself as a "professional hangman" and contacting young women who said they had suicidal tendencies.
He is reported to have told investigators that he killed his victims "as soon as he met them" and then "did some work on the bodies" to cover up his alleged crimes.