| The Silencing of the Lambs |
by Charles T. Whipple
Shortly after 3 pm on August 22, 1988, four-year-old Mari Konno left her home in the Iruma Village apartment complex in Saitama to play at her friend's hours. At 6:23 pm, after she failed to return, architect Shigeo Konno, struggling to quell his panic, called the police to report that his daughter was missing. About the same time as Konno's phone call, in a dark forest 50 km away, Mari was being slowly strangled to death.
As Mari made her way through the complex earlier that afternoon, a Nissan Langley sedan had pulled up nearby, and a man had climbed out of the driver's seat. "Wouldn't you like to go somewhere where it's cool?" he asked. Mari nodded and taking his hand, skipped towards the car.
While Mari played happily with the buttons on the radio, the car purred down National Highway No. 16 toward Hachioji in western Tokyo. Just before reaching Musashino Bridge, it swung right onto a road leading towards Itsukaichi. An hour and a half after it had left Iruma Village, the car came to a halt on a narrow dirt road in the woods near the Shintama power station, which loomed like a mammoth gravestone above the trees.
The man and Mari got out of the car and walked down a mountain path fringed by hinoki and sugi trees to where the hiking trail toward Komine Pass begins. The cicadas were in full cry and the mountain doves cooed in the stifling heat. After 20 or 30 minutes, the two sat down at a spot some 20 meters off the path.
Mari was tired; she might also have been frightened, because she began to sniffle. The man panicked. What if she started to bawl? The hiking course was a popular one, and someone might hear. But he had no intention of returning her to her parents.
While Mari's face froze in surprise, the man put his hands on her throat, thumbs on the larynx, and squeezed the life from her tiny body. When she finally went limp, he reverently undressed and fondled her. Then he laid her out as if in repose, bundled up her shorts, panties, shirt, and shoes, and walked, unnoticed, out of the forest and back to his car.
So ended the brief life of Mari Konno. And so began the murderous career of Tsutomu Miyazaki, a 26-year-old printer's assistant. By the time he was arrested, Miyazaki had strangled and sexually abused three other young girls, terrorized a whole prefecture, and for 11 months, evaded an unprecedented police hunt for the man responsible for "The Little Girl Murders."
When the police finally apprehended Miyazaki, they entered his home to find 6,000 videotapes of kiddy porn, splatter flicks, and cartoons. Among the grisly collection were videos and photos of his victims. It was evident that, for Miyazaki, his killing spree was little more than an extension of a lonely fantasy world. "It was like a game to him--a one-man play," said Akira Ishii, a law professor at Aoyama Gakuin University and psychotherapist who followed the case closely. The case of Tsutomu Miyazaki, Interprefectural Felon No.117, ground its way through the courts. This fall (1993)the psychological evaluation that should finally decide Miyazaki's fate--and lay to rest the ghosts of four murdered girls--will be announced. This is the second time the court has ordered an investigation into the crucial question: Is Miyazaki mad or bad? The answer will dictate whether or not Miyazaki is held criminally responsible for his crimes and will decide his sentence. "Miyazaki's crimes were thrill killings of a rare kind," concluded Dr. Susumu Oda, a psychologist at Tsukuba University. "Yet you could call him a textbook case."
The text of Tsutomu Miyazaki's life began in Itsukaichi, Tokyo, on August 21, 1962, where he was prematurely born. He weighed only 2.2 kg, and the joints in his hands were fused together, making it impossible for him to bend his wrists upwards. The deformation haunted him from early on. When he was five years old, a classmate teased him about his "funny hands." In family photos after that, Miyazaki never showed his hands, and his eyes were often closed.
By the time he reached Itsukaichi Elementary School, Miyazaki was almost invisible. When he is remembered at all by teachers and classmates, it is as a quiet, lonely child who seemed utterly incapable of making friends. But young Tsutomu, like any other boy, did have dreams; in the third grade, he wrote an essay: "When I grow up, I want to buy a car and go driving. I'll stop at a restaurant and eat some curry rice or something. I might even visit my relatives." More often than not, however, he increasingly blamed his deformed hands for his inability to achieve anything concrete. He began to stay up into the night reading comic books.
Tsutomu was clearly a clever child. Locked in his own isolated world, he studied hard, and became the first student from his junior high school to pass the entrance exam to Meidai Nakano High School. He commuted two hours each way, every day, for three years, but eventually began to lose interest in his studies. Instead of joining his fellow students, Miyazaki would retreat to a quiet corner to work on another home-drawn comic book. His plan--to enter Meiji University (with which the high school was affiliated), major in English and become a teacher--was over by his final year, when he ended up 40th in a class of 56, with grades so poor that he failed to receive the customary recommendation to the university. Naturally, he blamed his handicap.
Miyazaki settled for a photo-technician's course at a junior college and, after graduation in the spring of 1983, went to work at a printing plant owned by an acquaintance of his father. After thee years, during which he saved more than 3 million yen, he moved back to the family home, where he shared with his eldest sister a two-room annex to the main house near his father's printing business. Known around town for his unfailing courtesy, Katsumi Miyazaki owned the _Akikawa Shimbun_, a major local newspaper in the Itsukaichi area, Tokyo's most inland point. There, the Miyazaki family had considerable political influence.
The family had little influence over Tsutomu, however. His workaholic father was more interested in collecting political video clips and the latest cameras--enthusiasms that would echo grimly in his son's crimes. Miyazaki's mother Rieko also worked, but tried to compensate by buying Tsutomu gifts, such as the Nissan Langley sedan in which two of his victims died. "If I tried to talk to my parents about my problems, they'd just brush me off," Miyazaki confessed to police. "I even thought about suicide," he said.
Miyazaki's two younger sisters, Setsuko and Haruko, merely found him repulsive. Only his grandfather Shokichi, a widely regarded man who had served on the city council, seemed to take a genuine interest in the boy.
Miyazaki avoided women his own age, perhaps because he was physically immature. "His penis is no thicker than a pencil and no longer than a toothpick," a high-school classmate remarked. Yet his sex drive was stronger than average. At college, he took his still and video cameras to the tennis courts to take crotch shots of female players. He also soon tired of adult porn magazines. "They black out the most important part," he complained. So, by 1984, he had turned to child porn, which shows everything, since obscenity laws ban the showing of pubic hair, not sex organs.
"As a boy, he made no close friends and therefore gained no information about sex in the real world," said Oda. "Instead, he turned to videos, comics, and pornography for his thrills." Oda also believes that Miyazaki thought himself important because of his small penis and deformed hands.
How then did Miyazaki's unnatural vices lead him to kill? As Prof. Ishii at Aoyama Gakuin University pointed out, "People grow up in similar environments yet never become murderers."
The trigger seems to have been the death of his grandfather in May 1988, three months before the first murder. His grandfather had been his only warm adult relationship, and the death marked the breaking of Miyazaki's last bonds with society. Miyazaki later said that he even ate some of his grandfather's cremated bones--a claim that Shunsuke Serizawa, a literary critic and witness for Miyazaki's defense, believes. "He wanted to reincarnate his grandfather, and believed that this reincarnation would not be complete if any of his grandfather's body remained," Serizawa said.
His grandfather's demise also complemented Miyazaki's estrangement from his family. Once, when his youngest sister yelled at him for peeking at her in the bath, he burst in and smashed her head against the bathtub. Later, when his mother suggested he spend more time at work and less with his videos, Miyazaki exploded and beat her. Miyazaki's father had long since given up trying to talk to him.
"I felt all alone," Miyazaki explained later. "And whenever I saw a little girl playing on her own, it was almost like seeing myself."
The first of those little girls to die from Miyazaki's attentions was Mari Konno. After her disappearance, police squad cars with loudspeakers patrolled the streets warning parents to keep their children in sight at all times. Although it was officially tagged as a missing person case, "the police started the investigation as a murder right from the beginning," said a journalist who followed the Miyazaki case.
Eventually, the police spent 2,930 man-days interviewing people around Mari's home and sent 50,000 posters with Mari's picture to police, train, subway, and bus stations across the nation. Nothing came of these efforts. Not even police dogs could pick up the girl's scent.