Neighbours share views of Japan knife attacker

A man praying yesterday at the scene of the attack, where flowers and other tributes to those killed were laid. The rampage on Tuesday morning killed two people and injured 17 others, mainly young children. The 51-year-old attacker died after stabbin
A man praying yesterday at the scene of the attack, where flowers and other tributes to those killed were laid. The rampage on Tuesday morning killed two people and injured 17 others, mainly young children. The 51-year-old attacker died after stabbing himself at the scene. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Japanese police yesterday searched the home of the man behind a stabbing rampage in the town of Kawasaki a day earlier that killed two people, including a child.

The 51-year-old attacker, identified by police as Ryuichi Iwasaki, died after stabbing himself during the rampage, and his motives for the horrifying assault remain unclear.

Yesterday morning, police searched his home, not far from the scene of the morning attack, seizing unspecified material, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Local media said Iwasaki was living with relatives in their 80s, but gave no further details. His occupation was unknown.

Police had no comment on the investigation and declined to offer any further details about the attacker.

The rampage in the town south of Tokyo on Tuesday morning killed two people - 11-year-old schoolgirl Hanako Kuribayashi and a 39-year-old parent, identified as government official Satoshi Oyama, a Myanmar specialist.

Seventeen more people, mainly young children, were injured, according to the authorities.

Iwasaki crept silently up behind pupils of the Caritas Gakuen (school) as they waited for their school bus and began slashing randomly at them armed with knives in both hands, before fatally stabbing himself in the neck.

Local media, citing police sources, said yesterday that the attack took less than 20 seconds to unfold and that two additional knives were discovered inside the attacker's backpack, which he had left at a nearby convenience store.

But there were few other details about the attacker and his motive for the assault, with neighbours telling local media that they knew little about him.

 
 

However, some residents had witnessed him getting angry. A housewife in her 70s remembered being terrified when a young Iwasaki flew into a rage at her dog's barking. "It's noisy! How about I kill it for you?" she recalled him saying.

A woman in her 40s recalled that Iwasaki had yelled at her about a year ago, complaining that a tree in her garden was sticking out into the road and had hit him in the eye.

She said she saw Iwasaki on Tuesday morning at about 7am in front of her house. He said "good morning" to her and then ran off.

"It was the first time he'd spoken to me. Something felt strange, but I never imagined something like this would happen," she said.

A man who identified himself as having taught Iwasaki in junior high school, when the suspect was around 14, told NHK he was "not the kind of child who stands out".

"He and his friends would shove each other playfully, but he didn't attack anyone violently," the teacher said.

In the wake of the attack, Japan's government said it would review measures to ensure the safety of children travelling to and from school. Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world, and it is common for even young children to take public transport alone to get to and from school.

"The whole government will work in unison to ensure the children's safety," government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters after a ministerial meeting on the issue.

Yesterday morning, people were still arriving at the scene of the attack to lay flowers and other tributes to those killed.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'Neighbours share views of Japan knife attacker'. Print Edition | Subscribe