Japan police arrest man in Kyoto anime arson that killed 36

Shinji Aoba faces murder, arson charges after he stormed into anime studio in 2019 and set it alight killing 36 people.

    Police reportedly waited to arrest Shinji Aoba until Japan's coronavirus emergency was fully lifted this week [Jiji Press via EPA]
    Police reportedly waited to arrest Shinji Aoba until Japan's coronavirus emergency was fully lifted this week [Jiji Press via EPA]

    Japanese police on Wednesday arrested a man suspected of burning down a Kyoto anime studio last year  after he recovered enough from his own severe burns to respond to the police investigation.

    Kyoto police said they arrested Shinji Aoba, 42, on charges of murder and arson 10 months after obtaining the warrant because they had to wait for Aoba to recover.

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    Police also reportedly waited to arrest him until Japan's coronavirus emergency was fully lifted this week.

    Aoba is accused of storming into Kyoto Animation's No 1 studio on July 18 last year and setting it on fire. The attack, which left 36 people dead, shocked Japan and drew an outpouring of grief from anime fans worldwide.

    Police, quoting witnesses to the attack, have alleged Aoba arrived carrying two containers of flammable liquid, entered the studio's unlocked front door, dumped the liquid and set it on fire with a lighter.

    'Black mushroom cloud'

    About 70 people were working inside the studio in southern Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital, at the time of the attack.

    One of the survivors, an animator, told Japanese media he jumped from a window of the three-storey building gasping for air amid scorching heat after seeing "a black mushroom cloud" rising from downstairs.

    Many others tried but failed to escape to the roof, fire officials said. Many died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Aoba sustained severe burns on his face, torso and limbs, and was unconscious for weeks. He reportedly still cannot walk or feed himself without assistance.

    Japanese television footage Wednesday showed Aoba, his face scarred and eyebrows lost apparently from the fire, strapped to a stretcher as he was carried into a police station.

    Police have said Aoba told them he set the fire because he thought "(Kyoto Animation) stole novels."

    Prosecutors are expected to seek formal criminal charges against him in a few weeks.

    The fire was Japan's deadliest since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo's Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people in the country's worst known case of arson in modern times.

    SOURCE: AP news agency