Issei Sagawa, a Japanese criminal and a cannibal who confessed to killing an innocent woman in Paris in 1981, died at 73 from pneumonia. He admitted to his crimes and was arrested by the police, but still, due to loopholes in international laws, he was able to walk away without any punishment.
The 32-year-old at the time was a Ph.D. student studying literary studies at the University of Sorbonne and was obsessed with eating human flesh. “Nobody believes me, but my ultimate intention was to eat her, not necessarily to kill her.” These were the words stated by Mr. Sagawa himself when VICE interviewed him more than a decade ago. He asked Renee Hartevelt to allow him to sample a little bit of her body while she was alive, he told VICE.
He did not hide his crime when he was arrested and interviewed by the French administration. He repeatedly stated that he murdered her to eat her flesh, and still, he never received any prison term.
After he was detained at the request of French authorities, the examining physicians declared the man legally insane and unfit for trial forcing authorities to deport him to Japan.
However, when Sagawa was taken for treatment at Tokyo’s psychiatric Matsuzawa Hospital upon return, doctors at the hospital offered him another diagnosis. Psychologists confirmed that he was mentally healthy and concluded that he killed the woman, who was 25, completely out of sexual perversion.
But because Sagawa was charged with crimes in France, and the case against Sagawa in France was dismissed after the deportation of Sagawa, Japanese authorities couldn’t access court records that were sealed and could not charge Sagawa with no evidence. Since the deportation, no efforts have been put forth by authorities to prosecute Sagawa for his crime.
In subsequent interviews, Sagawa was interviewed by reporters; he stated that he had been enthralled with cannibalism since first grade when he’d look at the thighs of a male classmate. Also, he expressed an interest in bestiality and practiced it with his pet dog.
He’s tried eating people but was hesitant to go through with it. In Paris, he took prostitutes into his home every night but could not kill anyone until he came across his Dutch colleague from school, Renee Hartevelt.
As if he needed help in learning German, Sagawa invited Hartevelt to stay in his home. Sagawa said he selected Hartevelt due to her physical appeal, which he believed was lacking in an individual with tiny hands and less than 5 feet tall.
After a failed attempt, he finally murdered the girl on June 11, 1981. He walked ahead while she was reading poetry and shot her head using the rifle he bought and concealed. There are numerous conflicting stories about how he got the weapon. He fell unconscious when he saw her blood, the police reported at later times in interviews.
When he awoke, Sagawa raped her corpse. Then, he ate a portion of her flesh cooked and raw. A few days later, as her body began to decay and rot, he stuffed her into two suitcases. He then put them in an open lake in a park after sunset. Two joggers, who observed blood pouring out of the suitcases, called the police. At this point, Hartevelt’s relatives had filed after a report of her disappearance.
Sagawa made a living off his fame after he checked himself out of the hospital in August. 12 in 1986, when Sagawa was released from the hospital, the Japanese legal system could not be held accountable. Sagawa enjoyed a decade of fame and recognition in Japan as people were intrigued by his gruesome tale.
Sagawa wrote books and created manga about his actions and cravings for cannibals. He also had a brief stint as a screen star as he appeared in numerous pornographic films where he reenacted his crimes and was featured on cooking shows and eating raw meat. He also sold nude paintings of women.
Sagawa lived with his brother and younger sister in Tokyo and suffered an accident in 2013. He confessed in 2009 that he was still dreaming about eating a woman’s body; however, he stated that it was not his intention to act on what was “simply a fetish.”