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June 10, 2008
Japan massacre suspect said he was ugly, lonely
Combination photo of frame grabs from surveillance camera footage shows Akihabara stabbing suspect Tomohiro Kato purchasing knives at a military supply store in Fukui City. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
TOKYO - A SUSPECT behind a stabbing spree in Tokyo which left seven dead was handed to prosecutors on Tuesday as a picture emerged of an angry young man enraged by feelings he was ugly and lonely.

As dozens of camera crews swarmed around, 25-year-old suspect Tomohiro Kato stared glumly at the ground inside a police van as he was taken to prosecutors, who will interrogate him and could press charges that carry the death penalty.

In Japan's deadliest crime for seven years, Kato drove a rented two-tonne truck on Sunday into Akihabara, a crowded district which is the hub of Japan's comic-book and video-game subculture.

There, he swerved the vehicle into pedestrians, jumped out and slashed at random with a survival knife, wounding 17 people - seven of whom died - before being overpowered by police.

He documented his anger in dozens of online postings, some made by mobile telephone as he drove to Tokyo.

'I don't have a single friend and I won't in the future. I'll be ignored because I'm ugly,' he wrote in one message in May.

'If I had a girlfriend, I wouldn't have just left my job or be addicted to my cellphone. A man with hope could never understand this,' he wrote.

'I'm lower than trash because at least the trash gets recycled,' he also wrote.

In the course of a few years, Kato went from studying at a top high school to struggling to hold on to his job at a small-town auto parts factory.

'He was an excellent student who was making efforts in studying and sports,' a woman whose daughter was his classmate in elementary and middle schools told the Tokyo Shimbun.

'His mother was eager about education and he seemed to be trying to live up to her expectations,' she said.

Kato knew he was popular with adults.

'I was a kid who had a good reputation with adults. I'm accustomed to playing a good guy. Everybody was tricked so easily,' he reportedly wrote over the Internet on the eve of the crime.

He was a leader in the classroom and of a tennis club in middle school, reports said. But he also started to act violently at home as he entered the province's top Aomori Prefectural High School.

Entering the prestigious school as an elite, his class rank slipped to around 300 among the 360 students as he rubbed shoulders with the region's brightest children, a classmate told the Asahi television network.

'He wasn't outstanding in studies or extra-curricular activities at all. He was really a mediocre student,' a high school teacher told the Fuji network.

A neighbour said she heard that Kato and his younger brother would beat up their own mother.

'It's so painful having dinner with him,' another acquaintance quoted the mother as saying, according to the Sports Hochi tabloid. 'I'm scared.' He failed university entrance examinations and eventually trained as an auto mechanic, newspapers said.

A temping agency dispatched him in November to the auto parts factory in central Shizuoka prefecture, but he was reportedly on the verge of losing his job.

'He was the only contract worker along with me. The factory chief summoned the two of us and said that our contracts were going to be terminated at the end of June. I think he was troubled by the job cut,' a colleague told television networks.

Education Minister Kisaburo Tokai said Tuesday that he planned to consult with experts about the state of children in Japan, which has long enjoyed a reputation for its low crime.

'It made me think about whether the background of this incident may have been linked to education,' Mr Tokai told reporters.

Mourners kept coming to the crime scene two days after the killing. Some people were weeping while others laid flowers.

Media reports speculated on whether Kato picked Akihabara because he knew he would have major media coverage. Passers-by took real-time pictures and videos that have been posted on the Internet. -- AFP

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