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Issei Sagawa

Arrest and Release

Issei Sagawa was arrested in his apartment on June 13, 1981, two days after he murdered and ate 25-year-old Renee Hartevelt.

Police found pieces of Hartevelt's body and lips in the refrigerator. Sagawa freely confessed, mentioning that he had a history of mental illness.

The judge deemed Sagawa as incompetent to stand trial, saying that he was clearly delusional.

Sagawa was incarcerated at Paul Guiraud asylum for an indefinite amount of time. It was there that three psychiatrists said that he could not be cured.

While in the hospital, Sagawa corresponded with friends who sent him books on cannibalism. He said that from those books and his correspondents he learned how to commit murder and cannibalism without getting caught.

In 1984, Sagawa's wealthy father, Akira Sagawa, arranged a deal to get his son transferred from the asylum to Matsuzawa Psychiatric Hospital in Japan. The superintendent at the hospital said that Sagawa was sane and should be in prison.

In August of 1985, after only 15 months, Sagawa was granted his freedom. Only five years after he killed and ate a fellow student, he was free.

Sagawa seems quite happy with the fact that he got away with murder. He speaks freely to the press about his act of cannibalism. He finds the attention amusing.

He has written four novels since his release and has appeared in several Japanese pornographic films.

"The public has made me the godfather of cannibalism," he said. "And I am quite happy about that."

He has been featured on the cover of a Japanese gourmet magazine, has written a weekly column for a tabloid and has edited an anthology of cannibal fantasies. He has also gone under an assumed name to get women to pose nude with him.

Today, he walks the streets of Japan as if he was never arrested for killing and eating Renee Hartevelt.


Source: Court TV's Crime Library


Issei Sagawa:
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  • June 13, 1981- Sagawa arrested in his apartment for murder of Renee Hartevelt
  • Police found parts of Hartevelt's body and lips in the refrigerator
  • Sagawa deemed incompetent to stand trial
  • Incarcerated at Paul Guiraud asylum
  • 1984- Sagawa's father arranged to send son to Matsuzawa Psychiatric Hospital in Japan
  • Aug. 1985- Sagawa released
  • Wrote four novels and has appeared in several pornographic movies
  • Seems to revel in the attention he gets from his act of cannibalism
Copyright © 2003 Heather Rawlins