The attack on the school in western Japan two years ago, was unprecedented in scale and severely shook the national sense of security, already battered by a series of senseless crimes.

Mamoru Takuma, 39, who had received treatment for mental illness, pleaded guilty to the killings and injuring of 13 other children and two teachers at Ikeda Elementary School near Osaka.

Seven girls and a boy, between the ages of six and eight, were killed by Takuma in June 2001 when he burst into their classroom and started slashing at random with a knife.

Indicted on charges of murder and attempted murder, Takuma told an early court hearing he wanted to pay for the crime with his life.

After the judge ordered Takuma to stand for sentencing on Thursday, he burst out: “I have something to say. Since I’ll get the death penalty anyway, let me speak one last time. I’ve been quiet up to now,” NHK National Television said.

But the judge demanded he should be removed from the courtroom and he was not present when the sentence was passed.

Stiffer laws

Murders sent shock
waves through Japan

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for the crime which prompted calls for stiffer laws on crimes committed by the mentally ill, describing it as “a cruel and indiscriminate mass killing” and an act of revenge against society.

According to his lawyers, Takuma has said he is not afraid of death. But the families of the children he killed issued a statement saying this meant just the opposite.

Takuma had a record of psychiatric treatment and had seemed to be mentally unstable shortly after the arrest, according to media reports.

But doctors judged he was fit to stand trial because he was able to distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the attack.

The stabbing set off a wave of soul-searching in Japan, sparking debate about how to tighten security at schools, without turning them into fortresses.

Japanese schools have traditionally prided themselves on their openness to the surrounding community.

Japan’s crime rate, still low by international standards, has risen in recent years and the nation has been shocked by a number of violent, random crimes.

Last year, 18 people were sentenced to death in Japan where executions are by hanging.