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Infamous Japanese cannibal who raped, killed and ate a Dutch woman but was never jailed dies aged 73

Issei Sagawa, a Japanese murderer known as 'Kobe Cannibal' who killed and ate a Dutch student but was never imprisoned, has died aged 73

Infamous Japanese cannibal who raped, killed and ate a Dutch woman but was never jailed dies aged 73

  • Japanese murderer Issei Sagawa, known as ‘Kobe Cannibal’, died of pneumonia
  • In 1981, Sagawa was studying in Paris when he invited Renee Hartevelt to his home
  • He shot Renee in the neck, raped her, then consumed parts of her body

Issei Sagawa, a Japanese murderer known as “Kobe Cannibal” who killed and ate a Dutch student but was never imprisoned, has died aged 73.

Sagawa died of pneumonia on Nov. 24 and was given a funeral attended only by his relatives, with no public ceremony planned, his younger brother and a friend said in a statement.

In 1981, Sagawa was studying in Paris when he invited Dutch student Renee Hartevelt to his home.

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He shot her in the neck, raped her, then consumed parts of her body for several days.

Issei Sagawa, a Japanese murderer known as 'Kobe Cannibal' who killed and ate a Dutch student but was never imprisoned, has died aged 73

Issei Sagawa, a Japanese murderer known as ‘Kobe Cannibal’ who killed and ate a Dutch student but was never imprisoned, has died aged 73

Sagawa then tried to dispose of her body in the Bois de Boulogne park and was arrested a few days later, confessing her crime to the police.

But in 1983 he was deemed unfit to stand trial by French medical experts and was first held in a mental institution before being deported to Japan in 1984.

Hartevelt’s family pledged at the time to press for Sagawa to be prosecuted in Japan so that “the murderer will never be released”.

But upon arrival, he was deemed sane by Japanese authorities, who decided that Sagawa’s only problem was a “character abnormality” and that he did not need to be hospitalized.

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The Japanese authorities were unable to obtain his files from their French counterparts, who considered the case closed, leaving the murderer free.

Sagawa made no secret of his crime and capitalized on his notoriety, notably with a novel-like memoir titled “Into the Fog” in which he recalls the murder in vivid detail.

The murder was also the subject of “Letter from Sagawa-kun” by Japanese novelist Juro Kara, which won the country’s top literary prize in 1982.

This file photo taken on June 17, 1981 shows Japanese student Issei Sagawa

This file photo taken on June 17, 1981 shows Japanese student Issei Sagawa

Despite the heinous details of the murder and his lack of remorse, Sagawa achieved notoriety and regularly gave interviews to national and international media in the years following his return.

He was featured in a magazine for his paintings of nude women, appeared in a pornographic film, and produced a manga comic that depicted his crime in graphic and unrelenting detail.

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The sordid fascination with murder has even seen it referenced by the Rolling Stones and the Stranglers in songs.

Sagawa lived out his final years with his brother, apparently in a wheelchair after a series of health issues, including a stroke.

But he showed no apparent signs of remorse or reform, telling Vice in a 2013 interview as he looked at posters of Japanese women, “I think they would taste delicious.”

He also recounted the details of the incident and his lifelong obsession with cannibalism in interviews and a 2017 documentary, “Caniba.”

The film’s makers spent months with Sagawa and his brother and described themselves as “conflicted” over the experience.

“We were disgusted, fascinated, we wanted to understand,” said co-director Verena Paravel.

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