Japanese police investigate possible serial killer after finding nine dismembered bodies

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A Japanese man has reportedly been arrested after police found body parts from nine people in his apartment. Japanese media say the 27-year-old suspect had stored the parts in picnic coolers. (Reuters)

Japanese investigators believe they may have caught a serial killer after the dismembered remains of nine bodies were discovered in an apartment near Tokyo.

Local media reports said Tuesday that police arrested 27-year-old Takahiro Shiraishi, who reportedly confessed to killing one person, dismembering the body and putting the remains in coolers covered with cat litter in his apartment in the city of Zama, according to the Associated Press. There, authorities found bodies belonging to eight women and one man.

“There is no doubt that I tried to hide the body of the person I killed,” Shiraishi apparently told police, according to Kyodo News. “I dismembered it at the bathroom, disposing of some body parts in the garbage.”

Police have not identified any of the victims.

Authorities told Japanese media that they found the bodies while searching the apartment for a 23-year-old woman who had been reported missing last week.

Shiraishi, who was suspected to be involved in her disappearance, admitted that he killed her soon after he met her, through what police believe may have been an Internet site for people with suicidal ideation, according to Kyodo News. The public broadcaster NHK reported Tokyo police as saying that the woman had posted on the site in search for someone to join her in a suicide pact.

Kyodo News reported a message on her Twitter account that said she wanted to die but was “scared of dying alone” and was “looking for someone who will die with me.”

Surveillance video showed Shiraishi and the woman last week at the Hachioji railway station and at another station near his apartment, according to NHK.

Local media reported that police first found two severed heads in coolers during a search Monday in Zama, where neighbors said they had noticed a foul odor emanating from the apartment, according to the Associated Press.

Police told Kyodo News that body parts, some cut down to the bone, also were found in toolboxes.

A saw that authorities believe may have been used to dismember the bodies was also discovered inside the apartment.

Shiraishi has been charged with abandoning a body, but authorities are expected to file murder charges later, according to the local media reports.

As The Washington Post’s Adam Taylor reported last year, homicides in Japan are rare.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Study on Homicide 2013 made a note of this. “With no notable fluctuations, the homicide rate in Japan has decreased steadily since 1955 to reach one of the lowest levels in the world,” the report says. “The country’s homicide rate is associated with a stable and prosperous society with low inequality and high levels of development.”

After the news about the bodies, a neighbor told Kyodo News that Shiraishi was “a cheerful, kind and polite man.”

But another neighbor who had recently moved to the area told the news outlet that he had some strange run-ins with Shiraishi.

“He was sitting in front of the door and watching his cellphone,” he said about several recent late-night encounters. “It felt creepy.”

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