Takahiro Shiraishi, a 27-year-old man allegedly behind one of the nation’s most gruesome serial murders in recent years, preyed upon suicidal victims through twitter, offering them assistance of sorts.
But it was dark and deadly kind of help. According to investigators, Shiraishi created an account under the username “hangingpro” with a bio that describes a desire to spread the user’s supposed expertise about hanging. The profile photo shows a manga-like illustration of a young man wearing a necktie made of a hanging rope. The character’s neck and wrist show scars.
The profile adds: “I want to help people who are really in pain. Please DM me anytime.”
One of the account’s tweets, posted on Oct. 21, discussed victims of bullying as well as those who have attempted suicide.
“Bullying is everywhere, in school and at work,” the post read. “There must be many people in society who are suffering after attempting suicides, though their cases are not reported in the news. I want to help such people.”
The nation — known for its low crime rate — continues to reel from the shocking discovery on Tuesday of nine dismembered bodies at Shiraishi’s apartment in the residential suburb of Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture.
The Mainichi Shimbun has reported that two of the bodies showed signs of strangulation, one had broken neck bones and another had bleeding patterns typically associated with choking.
It is the first high-profile mass murder case in the nation since July 2016, when a man went on a knife rampage at a care facility for the intellectually disabled, killing 19 people.
Shiraishi was arrested the same day on an initial suspicion of mutilating a corpse of unknown identity and placing it in a cold-storage container sometime between Aug. 22 and Oct. 30.
Shiraishi has said money was among his motives, telling police he took ¥500,000 ($4,410) from one of his victims. He also admitted to assaulting some of the women with the intent of raping them, according to police.
The man — who was unemployed at the time of his arrest but reportedly has worked as a scout for the sex trade — is believed to have used multiple Twitter accounts to meet and bring young people, mostly women, to the apartment, where he allegedly killed the victims and hacked up their bodies.
Investigative sources said Shiraishi found women on Twitter whose posts expressed suicidal thoughts, and replied to them by saying, “Let’s die together.”
He also used the account to try to isolate those at risk of suicide from loved ones, the sources said. On Oct. 6, he tweeted: “It is not good to tell friends, family members and social networking sites that you are going to die before committing suicide.”
The nine victims are believed to be one man around 20 years of age and eight women. Shiraishi has told the police that out of the nine he killed, four were around 17 years old while the other five were in their 20s.
He murdered them without knowing their names or exact ages, according to police.
People who have known Shiraishi since his childhood, however, recount a soft side that doesn’t easily square with the horrendous crimes he is alleged to have committed.
From his neighborhood, some remembered the young Shiraishi as a “quiet child who was able to socialize with neighbors.”
At school, his grades were far from stellar but he was an attentive pupil who “didn’t especially stand out but was not a gloomy character either,” according to a former classmate quoted by the Asahi Shimbun. One person who claimed to have gone to school with Shiraishi took to Twitter, saying he was so “normal, inconspicuous and low-profile” that most of his peers would scarcely recognize him.
But the warning signs were perhaps there, as one elementary-school contemporary told Fuji TV that Shiraishi and his friends enjoyed choking each other for fun.
“He once passed out while playing the choking game,” the man, who did not wish to be identified, told the show.