Japanese cannibal who murdered and devoured a woman before walking free dies aged 73

Japanese cannibal who murdered and devoured a woman before walking free dies aged 73. Credit: Screengrab/Vice/YouTube.

A Japanese cannibal who murdered and then devoured a woman in France in 1981 but walked free has died aged 73.

Issei Sagawa, dubbed the ‘Kobe Cannibal’, never saw the inside of a prison cell due to a legal loophole in the French legal system, which meant he was sent back to Japan.

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

It was in 1981 while studying in Paris when Sagawa invited a Dutch student named Renee Hartevelt to his home before shooting her, raping her, and eating her flesh over the course of three days.

He was arrested as he tried to dispose of her remains in the Bois de Boulogne park.

Sagawa was deemed unfit to stand trial in France by psychiatrists and was held in a mental institution before dropping the charges and sending him back to Japan, where he was ruled sane and walked free. 

Sagawa recounted his crime in graphic detail in a memoir called In the Fog, written by his brother, and in a documentary in 2017 called Caniba.

He appeared to enjoy his notoriety and spoke of his desire for human flesh in several interviews.

Speaking to media outlet Vice, he said he had been “obsessed with cannibalism”.

He said: “My desire to eat a woman had changed into an obligation.”

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Vickie S
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Vickie Scullard

A journalist of more than 12 years from Manchester, UK, Vickie now lives in Madrid and works as a news writer for the Euro Weekly News.