A knife-wielding former employee killed 19 people and injured 25 at a care centre for the mentally disabled in Japan today, in the country’s worst mass killing in decades.
The 26-year-old man later turned himself in at a police station, admitting to officers: “I did it.” He reportedly also said: “The disabled should all disappear.”
Authorities identified the attacker as Satoshi Uematsu and said he had worked at the facility in Sagamihara, a city of more than 700,000 people west of Tokyo, until February.
Broadcaster NTV said the man told police he had been fired and held a grudge against the care centre.
The attack began in the early hours of the morning when Uematsu allegedly broke a first-floor window to get into the building. NTV reported that he tied up caregivers before starting to stab the residents.
A doctor at one of the hospitals where victims were taken described some with “deep stab” wounds to the neck.
“The patients are very shocked mentally, and they cannot speak now,” the doctor told national broadcaster NHK.
A fleet of ambulances, police cars and fire trucks converged on the Tsukui Yamayuri-en centre, a low-rise building nestled against forested hills, which was cordoned off and draped with yellow “Keep Out” tape.
Fire department spokesmen told AFP that the dead included nine men and 10 women aged from 18 to 70, and that another 25 people were wounded, 20 of them seriously.
An official from Kanagawa prefecture, which takes in Sagamihara, identified the suspect and said he had turned up at the police station with the murder weapons.
Uematsu “broke a glass window and intruded into the facility at about 2:10 AM and stabbed those staying there,” Shinya Sakuma told a press conference in the prefecture’s capital Yokohama.
“When Uematsu turned himself in, he was found carrying kitchen knives and other types of knives stained with blood.”
The timeline of the attack remained unclear. Police earlier said they received a call from the centre around 2:30 AM, raising the alarm that a man armed with a knife had entered the facility. They said he turned himself in half an hour later.
“I was shocked,” said Chikara Inabayashi, 68, who lives near the care centre which takes in up to 160 residents.
“I woke up at about 3 AM because of the blaring noise of the sirens,” he told AFP.
Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world, and attacks involving weapons of any kind are unusual.
The killing is believed to be the worst such incident since 1938, when a man went on a killing spree armed with an axe, sword and rifle — killing 30 people.