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Notorious cannibal killer who ate classmate's flesh has died

Jess Hardiman

| Last updated 

Notorious cannibal killer who ate classmate's flesh has died

Issei Sagawa, the Japanese serial killer known as the 'Kobe Cannibal', has died aged 73.

Sagawa shot and raped Dutch student Renee Hartevelt in 1981, proceeding to consume her body parts over the course of several days.

However, he never actually faced trial after being declared unfit to stand on mental health grounds, and was eventually able to walk free.

According to AFP, his younger brother and a friend said in a statement that Sagawa died of pneumonia on 24 November, and was given a funeral attended only by relatives.


They added that no public ceremony had been planned.

Born in 1949, Sagawa previously admitted he’d thought about eating human flesh since childhood.

Issei Sagawa in 2017 documentary Caniba. Credit: Norte Productions
Issei Sagawa in 2017 documentary Caniba. Credit: Norte Productions

He explained: “It’s simply a fetish.


“For example, if a normal man fancied a girl, he’d naturally feel a desire to see her as often as possible, to be close to her, to smell her and kiss her, right?

“To me, eating is just an extension of that.

“Frankly, I can’t fathom why everyone doesn’t feel this urge to eat, to consume, other people.”

While studying abroad in Paris in the early 80s, he got the chance to act out his dark fantasy, gaining the trust of Hartevelt and inviting her to dinner, before shooting her in the neck.


Sagawa said: “I thought about calling an ambulance.

“But then I thought, ‘Hang on, don’t be stupid. You’ve been dreaming about this for 32 years and now it’s actually happening!'”

He went on to rape her corpse and then began cutting her up.

Sagawa in 1981. Credit: Keystone Press/Alamy Stock Photo
Sagawa in 1981. Credit: Keystone Press/Alamy Stock Photo

Sagawa continued: “The first thing I did was cut into her buttock. No matter how deep I cut, all I saw was the fat beneath the skin. It looked like corn, and it took a while to actually reach the red meat.

“The moment I saw the meat, I tore a chunk off with my fingers and threw it into my mouth. It was truly a historical moment for me.”

He only had one regret following that, which was not eating her alive.

“What I truly wished was to eat her living flesh,” he said. “Nobody believes me, but my ultimate intention was to eat her, not necessarily to kill her.”


Sagawa was caught as he tried to dispose of his victim's body in a suitcase, and was arrested for murder.

But he was declared insane and therefore deemed unfit to stand trial, and was instead extradited to his native Japan, where he was placed in a mental hospital.

A loophole then meant that, as charges were officially dropped in France, the court documents were never released to the authorities in his homeland.

As such, there was no case against him, and he was able to walk free and enjoy a relatively normal life in Tokyo - despite still dreaming of eating people.

“The desire to eat people becomes so intense around June when women start wearing less and showing more skin,” he added.

“Just today, I saw a girl with a really nice derrière on my way to the train station.

“When I see things like that, I think about wanting to eat someone again before I die.”

Featured Image Credit: Keystone Press/Alamy Stock Photo/Channel Four Films

Topics: World News

Jess Hardiman
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