| On May 27, 1997, a school janitor found the head of Jun Hase, an 11-year-old retarded boy who had been missing since May 24. Hase, a student at Tainohata Elementary School, had been decapitated with a sharp instrument, and in his mouth the killer stuffed a taunting message for the police. Later that day the boy's headless body was found under a house in the woods near the school. Hase's killing is the second in that area. On March 15 a ten-year-old girl named Ayaka Yamashita was bludgeoned to death with a steel pipe a elementary school girl. The killer had also launched at least three unsuccessful attacks on young girls in February and March. Whether Japanese authorities realized it or not they had a serial slayer on their hands.
In the note the killer warned: "This is the beginning of the game... You police guys stop me if you can... I desperately want to see people die, it is a thrill for me to commit murder. A bloody judgment is needed for my years of great bitterness." It ended with words in English, "shooll (sic) kill" and was signed in a mysterious combination of Japanese characters meaning rice wine, rose and sacred master, followed by "the school killer."
The killer also used a cross-like symbol reminiscent to the one used by San Francisco's infamous "Zodiac" killer. Similar slogans were found painted on walls near the elementary school where the head was found. Two mutilated cats were also found outside the main gate of the junior high school where the boy's head was found before he vanished. Police sources said that mutilated cat carcasses were also found near the two other crime scenes before the attacks occurred.
On June 6 a person claiming responsibility for the beheading of the schoolboy in Kobe threatened to kill three people a week in a letter sent to a local newspaper. "I am putting my life at stake for the sake of this game,'' said the rambling 1,400-word letter, "If I'm caught, I'll probably be hanged ... police should be angrier and more tenacious in pursuing me... It's only when I kill that I am liberated from the constant hatred that I suffer and that I am able to attain peace. It is only when I give pain to people that I can ease my own pain." In broad strokes the letter also lashed out at, among other things, Japan's "compulsory education which formed me, an invisible person."
The killer signed the letter "Seito Sakakibara" (Apostle Sake Devil Rose). Strangely, the writer claimed that it was his real name, and was angered that the name "devil's rose" in his first note was interpreted as an alias. "From now on, if you misread my name or spoil my mood I will kill three vegetables a week... If you think I can only kill children you are greatly mistaken."
On June 28 a 14-year-old boy -- who turned 15 two weeks after detention -- was arrested for the Hase killing as well as the two March 15 assaults. The boy, who cannot be identified because of his age, was apparently set on a violent path from the get go. He began carrying cutting weapons while still in elementary school. "I can ease my irritation when I'm holding a survival knife or spinning scissors like a pistol." At age 12 he exhibited extreme cruelty to animals, lining up a row of frogs in a street and riding over them with his bicycle, mutilating cats and decapitating pigeons.
The experimental type, on March 16, after the attacks on the two girls, he wrote in his diary: "I carried out sacred experiments today to confirm how fragile human beings are... I brought the hammer down, when the girl turned to face me. I think I hit her a few times but I was too excited to remember." On March 23 he noted: "This morning my mom told me, 'Poor girl. The girl attacked seems to have died.' There is no sign of my being caught ... I thank you, God Bamoidooki, for this... Please continue to protect me." The imaginary Bamoidooki is a floating head of Buddha with a swastika-like symbol.
Japanese Construction Minister Shizuka Kamei called for restricting violent and pornographic videos after a search of the 14-year-old suspect's bedroom turned up thousands of comic books and pornographic videos. As stated by the outraged minister: "Movies lacking any literary or educational merit made for just showing cruel scenes... Adults should be blamed for this."
n Japan at that time a person under the age of sixteen could not be charged as an adult and could not be identified publicly. Instead, the boy who would become know simply as "The Kobe Killer" was sentenced to a youth reformatory for treatment. In 2003 he was judged to be "cured" of his sexual sadism and compulsion to kill.
The Kobe Killer was released on parole on March 10, 2004, and located in a different portion of the country. The Japanese government did make a pair of unusual considerations due to the extreme nature of his crimes. His release was announced to the public and the victim's families would be periodically notified of his whereabouts.
The Kobe Killer's supervised parole lasted only until December 31, 2004. It was reported that soon after he was no longer required to report to his parole officer he moved twice in quick succession and then disappeared. Even his father, who he is still close to, claims he has not heard from his son since last year and says he does not know where his son is living. With his identity sealed by the courts The Kobe Killer could be anywhere, perhaps waiting to strike again.