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Japan knife attacker grins at cameras, wished that disabled people ‘disappear’

world Updated: Jul 27, 2016 17:40 IST

Satoshi Uematsu, the suspect of Tuesday's knife attack, being transported from a police station in Sagamihara, outside Tokyo to prosecutors on July 27, 2016. The attack was the deadliest mass killing in Japan in the post-World War II era.(AP)

A Japanese man who admitted to murdering 19 people at a centre for the mentally disabled grinned at news cameras on Wednesday before being questioned over the country’s worst killing spree in decades.

Police searched the home of the 26-year-old, who reportedly said he wanted all disabled people to “disappear”, after the knife rampage that left his victims in pools of blood, including some who were stabbed in the neck.

With a blue jacket draped over his head, Satoshi Uematsu was escorted out of a police station into a waiting van before a crowd of flashing cameras.

Inside the vehicle with the jacket removed, he smiled broadly in footage broadcast on morning news shows.

Uematsu’s self-styled mission to rid the country of the mentally disabled -- laid out earlier this year in a long letter that came to light Tuesday -- has shocked Japan, as has the carnage at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en centre in the city of Sagamihara, outside Tokyo.

An official at the Tsukui police station, where Uematsu was held after the attack, declined to comment on the investigation, only confirming that he was being transported to prosecutors for questioning.

Plainclothes police officers were seen searching his house where yellow tape declared it a no-entry zone. The two-storey dwelling is in the same neighbourhood as the care centre.

Police officers enter the house of Satoshi Uematsu, the suspect in a mass stabbing attack, in Sagamihara, outside of Tokyo on July 27, 2016. The suspect was being transferred from a local police station to the prosecutor's office in Yokohama. (AP Photo)

Local media said Uematsu has told police that he wants to apologise to bereaved families about the sudden loss of their loved ones, though he still justified what he did.

“I saved those with multiple disabilities,” he told police, according to private broadcaster TV Asahi, citing investigative sources.

Uematsu broke into the care centre in the forested hills of Sagamihara in the early hours of Tuesday.

History of Disturbing Behaviour

He reportedly tied up two caregivers before stabbing residents using five knives in total -- leaving 26 people injured, 13 of them severely.

He quickly turned himself in at a police station, carrying bloodied knives and admitting to officers: “I did it.”

Uematsu reportedly also said: “The disabled should all disappear.”

Security camera footage taken near the centre showed a vehicle arriving there shortly before the attack began. The driver opened the boot to remove objects before walking toward the facility.

At around 2:50 am, shortly after an emergency call was made to police from the centre, the footage shows the driver dashing back to the vehicle, carrying a large bag.

A police officer walks at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the mentally disabled where a number of people were killed and dozens injured in a knife attack, in Sagamihara, outside of Tokyo. (AP Photo)

Uematsu left his job at the care home and was forcibly hospitalised in February after telling colleagues he intended to kill disabled people at the centre.

But he was discharged 12 days later when a doctor deemed he was not a threat.

He had previously delivered a letter to the speaker of the lower house of parliament in which he threatened to kill hundreds of disabled people, outlining a broad plan for night-time attacks against Tsukui Yamayuri-en and another facility.

In the rambling letter he presented a vision of a society in which the seriously handicapped could be euthanised with the approval of family members since “handicapped people only create unhappiness”.

Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world. The killing spree is believed to be the nation’s worst since 1938, when a man armed with an axe, sword and rifle went on a rampage that left 30 people dead.