Now and then on my blog I will do a post about the worst of the worst–serial killers. When trying to come up with a premise for this week’s post, I stumbled across the strange and macabre story of Issei Sagawa, a cannibal and minor celebrity. Yes, you read that right: a cannibal and a minor celebrity.
Sagawa was a troubled youth who was identified by psychiatric professionals as a potential threat to himself and others early on. While the story should have ended here with Sagawa safely medicated and locked away in a psych ward, Sagawa had one asset that many psychopaths lack–a rich father. Unwilling or unable to see his son for the burgeoning monster he was, Sagawa’s father shipped his son off to school in Paris, France to study Comparative Literature. It was while he was in school that he met Renee Hartevelt, a Dutch classmate who he became obsessed with.
He lured Hartevelt to his apartment under the pretense of needing help with a German class they took together. Sagawa shot Hartevelt in the head with a .22 caliber rifle he’d bought specifically for that purpose, and over the next few days he proceeded to enact his ghoulish fantasies with her dead body. Sagawa was arrested by French police after being caught trying to dispose of the body, which he had dismembered and stuck in a pair of suitcases. French authorities quickly found Sagawa too insane to stand trial, and he was confined to a mental hospital.
Again, the story should have ended there but for the intervention of Sagawa’s rich father, who hired a top notch lawyer to defend his son. Sagawa was extradited to Japan, where he was judged to be sane, but the trial couldn’t commence because France refused to release court documents for reasons that aren’t quite clear. Issei Sagawa checked out of Matsuzawa hospital five years after his grisly crime, a free man.
As if that gross miscarriage of justice was not enough, Issei Sagawa became something of a celebrity as a result of his crime. He published at least four novels based on his experiences, acted in more than one porn movie, has been a freelance photographer, and has written several articles for various publications. Thirty years on, Sagawa is still free, but some minor amount of justice has come his way. His star has faded in recent years, and several publishers have turned him down, apparently having gained a conscience at last. He cannot find work due to his infamy, and he now lives in poverty on welfare (which so far as I understand has run out). All told, he only served five years for his gruesome crime.
For more about our weird world, check out Andrew’s blog.