Japanese man who killed 19 at centre for disabled sentenced to death

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A man who stabbed to death 19 residents at a care home in Japan for people with disabilities has been sentenced to death.

Satoshi Uematsu, a former employee of the Tsukui Yamayuri En (Tsukui Lily Garden) facility in Sagamihara, south-west of Tokyo, carried out the attack in 2016, in which residents were targeted as they slept.

Twenty-four other residents and two care workers were injured in what is one of post-war Japan’s worst mass killings.

The 30-year-old admitted to the rampage during hearings at Yokohama district court but pleaded not guilty on the grounds of diminished responsibility, with his lawyers claiming he was suffering from a psychiatric disorder at the time of the attack.

He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Uematsu told the court last month he would not appeal against his sentence, no matter what it may be, newspaper Mainichi reported.

Police said Uematsu, described by neighbours as polite and helpful, was motivated by a deep-seated hatred of people with disabilities. He told police after his arrest that society would be better off if disabled people “disappeared”.

Prosecutors said he broke into the care facility in the early hours of 26 July 2016 and fatally stabbed 10 women and nine men, aged 19 to 70. He then drove to the nearest police station to hand himself in. Police found a bag inside his car containing knives and other sharp-edged tools, and the seats were covered in blood.

Uematsu had been forcibly hospitalised in early 2016 after police contacted him about a letter he had sent to the speaker of the lower house of Japan’s parliament urging the government to introduce euthanasia for people with disabilities. He was released after 12 days when doctors deemed he did not pose a threat to others.

After his arrest, Uematsu expressed no remorse, telling the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper that people with mental disabilities “have no heart”, and “there’s no point in living” for them. “I had to do it for the sake of society,” he said of the attack.

At the time, the Sagamihara attack was the worst mass killing in Japan since the second world war. An arson attack on an anime studio in Kyoto last July killed 36 people.