Japan executes man over 2008 stabbing rampage

Tomohiro Kato was convicted of killing seven people in an attack on Tokyo’s popular Akihabara district.

Police on a blood-stained street in Akhibara investigate the aftermath of Kato's stabbing attack watched by a crowd of onlookers in Tokyo, Japan.
Tomohiro Kato was found guilty of killing seven people in an attack in Tokyo's Akihabara in June 2008 when he was 25 [File: Jiji Press via AFP]

Japan has executed a man convicted of killing seven people in a stabbing rampage in Tokyo’s popular Akihabara electronics district in 2008.

Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said Tomohiro Kato had undertaken “meticulous preparation” for the attack and had shown a “strong intent” to kill.

“The death sentence in this case was finalised through sufficient deliberation in court,” he told reporters.

“Based on this fact, I approved the execution after extremely thorough scrutiny.”

The June 2008 attack, which also injured 10 people, began with Kato driving a truck into a crowd. After stabbing several people, the then 25-year-old was arrested at the scene, telling police: “I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn’t matter who I’d kill.”

Police said he documented his journey to Akihabara on internet bulletin boards, typing messages on a mobile phone from behind the wheel of the truck and complaining of his unstable job and loneliness.

Japan’s top court confirmed Kato’s death sentence in 2015, saying there was “no grounds for leniency”. The attack was the country’s worst mass killing in seven years.

Police arrest Tomohiro Kato, who is wearing a beige suit and glasses, on a street in Akhibara after he killed seven people in Tokyo.
Tomohiro Kato was arrested at the scene. He drove a truck into pedestrians before going on a stabbing spree [File: Jiji Press via AFP]

The son of a banker, Kato grew up in Aomori prefecture in Japan’s north, where he graduated from a top high school. He failed his university entrance exams and eventually trained as a car mechanic, reports said.

Prosecutors said Kato’s self-confidence had plummeted after a woman he had chatted with online abruptly stopped emailing him after he sent her a photograph of himself.

His anger against the general public grew when his online comments, including his plans for a killing spree, drew no reaction, prosecutors said.

While awaiting trial, Kato wrote to a 56-year-old taxi driver whom he injured in the stabbing spree, expressing his remorse.

The victims “were enjoying their lives, and they had dreams, bright futures, warm families, lovers, friends and colleagues,” Kato wrote according to a copy published in the Shukan Asahi weekly.

Kato’s execution is the first in Japan this year and comes after three prisoners were hanged in December 2021. Those were the first executions in the country in two years.

The use of the death penalty in Japan is shrouded in secrecy. Those on death row might only find out the sentence will be carried out a few hours before or sometimes not at all, while their families are usually only notified afterwards, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty, which is opposed to the death penalty in all cases, says the general trend around the world remains towards the abolition of capital punishment.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera