Suspected arsonist in deadly Kyoto anime studio fire says firm stole his novel

An investigator enters the No. 1 studio of Kyoto Animation after the facility was destroyed in a deadly arson attack, in Kyoto's Fushimi Ward on the morning of July 19, 2019. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KYOTO, Jul 19, 2019, Mainichi Shimbun. The man suspected of carrying out an arson attack on a prominent animation studio in Kyoto, killing 33 people, has told police that he started the fire because the company stole his novel, investigative sources have told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Investigators, however, have been unable to confirm the alleged theft, and Kyoto Prefectural Police suspect that the man held a grudge against the company as a result of his one-sided view.

Apart from the 33 people who died, the fire left 35 injured besides the suspected arsonist himself. Police are waiting for him to recover in hospital and plan to question him to pinpoint the motives behind the attack.

The fire that raged through the No. 1 studio of Kyoto Animation in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward in western Japan was extinguished at about 6:20 a.m. on July 19, about 20 hours after it started. Kyoto Prefectural Police launched an inspection at the scene at 9:30 a.m. the same day on suspicion of crimes including arson of an inhabited structure and murder. They also began conducting autopsies on the victims. Police planned to set up an investigation headquarters in the afternoon.

Investigative sources said the man suspected of carrying out the attack is aged 41 and is believed to live in an apartment in Saitama’s Minuma Ward north of Tokyo. He reportedly had gotten involved in an incident in the past that resulted in him going into a private rehabilitation facility in Saitama Prefecture. He had never worked at Kyoto Animation, and no clear point of connection between him and the animation studio has been found.

The suspected arsonist has been anesthetized. When he recovers, police plan to arrest him and probe his relationship with the company and the gist of his statements.

Investigators said that two 20-liter gasoline containers, a trolley, a bag containing several knives, and a hammer were found at the scene of the arson attack. The fact that multiple containers of gasoline and weapons were prepared in advance has led police to suspect that the man carried out a calculated attack.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that there had been trouble on July 14 over noise at the apartment where the suspect apparently lives, and he had threatened a neighbor, telling him, “I’ll kill you.” The neighbor said the man had banged on the wall over the sound, but the noise was actually coming from another apartment. The neighbor called the man over his intercom system and told him, “The sound’s not coming from my place,” to which the man responded, “Shut up. I’ll kill you. I’ve got enough on my own plate.” The man then suddenly grabbed the neighbor by the collar and pulled his hair.

After complaining for about 10 minutes, the man returned to his apartment. The neighbor immediately phoned police to report the incident.

“It made me scared because thought I was actually going to be killed,” he said.

Investigative sources said that in August last year and March this year, the man had himself been reported to police over sounds from his apartment. When an officer warned him, the man is believed to have complied and said, “I understand.”

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka and Satoshi Fukutomi, Kyoto Bureau, and Ayako Hiramoto and Yuki Nakagawa, Saitama Bureau)

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