TOKYO (AFP) — Japan on Tuesday executed three people including notorious serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, a fetishist convicted of murdering four little girls and eating some of their bodies, officials said.
Miyazaki, 45, was nicknamed the "killer nerd" for his obsession with sexual cartoons and pornography. But defence lawyers contended he was mentally ill and could not be held fully responsible for his actions.
Japan is the only major industrialised nation other than the United States to apply the death penalty and has been stepping up the pace of executions, which enjoy wide public support.
"We are carrying out executions by selecting the people whom we can execute with a feeling of confidence and responsibility," Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama told a news conference.
The executions come one week after Japan saw a deadly stabbing spree in a Tokyo neighbourhood known for nerd culture, carried out by a troubled young auto worker who sent messages of despair over the Internet.
Miyazaki was arrested in July 1989 while trying to take naked pictures of a girl outdoors and the details that emerged from his case stunned Japan.
He confessed to having killed four girls, aged between four and seven, in Tokyo and its suburbs and eating some of the remains of two of them.
Miyazaki mutilated the bodies of the victims, slept next to the corpses and drank their blood.
He sent letters to the media under a woman's name claiming responsibility for the crimes and sent a box containing the remains of a slaughtered girl to her family.
"The atrocious murder of four girls to satisfy his sexual desire leaves no room for leniency," Chief Justice Tokiyasu Fujita said in January 2006 when he upheld his death sentence.
"The crime is cold-blooded and cruel," he said.
When police arrested Miyazaki, they found about 6,000 videotapes, many of which contained horrific footage, at his home in Saitama prefecture, near Tokyo.
During the nearly two-decade judicial process, Miyazaki never uttered a word of remorse to the victims and their families. He cryptically said that a "rat man" -- a cartoonish image of which he drew -- committed the crimes.
He also distanced himself from his family. When his father, unable to come to terms with what his son did, jumped into a river to his death in 1994, Miyazaki wrote to a publisher: "I feel refreshed."
But court-appointed psychiatrists agreed with defence lawyers that Miyazaki was mentally ill.
One finding was that Miyazaki suffered from a multiple personality disorder, while a second said he was schizophrenic.
Hirokazu Hasegawa, a clinical psychologist who saw Miyazaki in 2006, said the killer believed his crimes would resurrect his grandfather, who died three months before the grandson committed his first crime in 1988.
"What he told me lastly was 'Please tell the world that I'm a gentle man', " Hasegawa said at the time.
The death penalty enjoys wide support in Japan, despite criticism from the country's human rights groups and lawyers, as well as the European Union.
Japan had a de facto moratorium on executions for 15 months until 2006 as the then justice minister, Seiken Sugiura, said the death penalty went against his Buddhist beliefs.
Since then, Japan has executed 23 people. More than 100 people remain on death row.
The other two inmates who were executed Tuesday were both convicted murders, Shinji Mutsuda and Yoshio Yamasaki, a justice ministry statement said.
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