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Japan’s 30-year-old ‘Twitter killer’ sentenced to death for nine murders

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A Japanese man dubbed the “Twitter killer” was sentenced to death by a Tokyo court on Tuesday for murdering and dismembering nine people he met online.

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Takahiro Shiraishi, 30, admitted killing and butchering his young victims -- all but one of whom were women -- who he met on the social media platform.

He was found guilty of murdering, dismembering and storing the bodies of the nine in his apartment in Zama city in Kanagawa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, the report said.

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In court the prosecution argued Shiraishi made contact with victims via Twitter after they expressed suicidal thoughts, the Jiji news agency reported. Using a handle which loosely translates as “hangman,” Shiraishi invited them to his apartment in Zama, promising to help them die, Jiji said, citing the indictment.

His lawyers had argued he should receive a prison sentence because his victims, aged between 15 and 26, expressed suicidal thoughts on social media and so had consented to death.

But on Tuesday “the death sentence was handed down” to Shiraishi, a court official told AFP.

“None of the nine victims consented to be killed, including silent consent,” the judge said, according to public broadcaster NHK.

“It is extremely grave that the lives of nine young people were taken away. The dignity of the victims was trampled upon,” the judge reportedly added.

NHK said 435 people turned up to watch the verdict, even though the court only had 16 seats available for the public.

Shiraishi used Twitter to contact users who posted about taking their own lives, telling them he could help them in their plans -- or even die alongside them.

According to the indictment, Shiraishi strangled and dismembered eight women and one man aged 15 to 26 from August to October 2017, Kyodo said. He was also alleged to have sexually assaulted all his female victims, the report added.

Shiraishi said before the trial that even if given the death penalty he would not appeal, according to Japanese media.

The father of one 25-year-old victim said in court last month that he “will never forgive Shiraishi even if he dies,” NHK reported at the time.

“Even now, when I see a woman of my daughter’s age, I mistake her for my daughter. This pain will never go away. Give her back to me!” he said.

Japan is one of few developed nations to retain the death penalty, and public support for it remains high.

Years usually pass between sentencing and execution, and the last execution was in December 2019, when a Chinese man was hanged for the murder of a family of four.