He had killed and eaten a classmate in Paris: the Japanese cannibal died

Sylvie Claire / December 2, 2022

Issei Sagawa, nicknamed the "Japanese cannibal" for having murdered and eaten a Dutch student in Paris in 1981, has died at the age of 73.
 
His crime had inspired horror and fascination around the world. Sagawa died on November 24 of pneumonia, and a funeral has already been held in the presence of only his relatives, according to a statement sent by the publisher of an autobiography of his brother Jun published in 2019. No public ceremony was planned, the statement added. Issei Sagawa was a student in Paris at the Sorbonne University when, on June 11, 1981, he had invited a Dutch classmate, Renee Hartevelt, to dinner in his apartment. 
 
There, he had killed her with a rifle shot in the back of her neck and raped her before skinning her and eating different parts of her body for three days. "Eating this girl was an expression of love. I wanted to feel the existence of a person I love inside me," he confessed after his arrest. Experts attesting to his mental illness, he was dismissed and interned in France and then in Japan before regaining his freedom in August 1985. 
 
He became a media star and received many journalists in his apartment in the suburbs of Tokyo. He sometimes appeared on Japanese television and published several best-sellers such as "Cannibal" or "I would like to be eaten" and drew a manga about his crime. The Japanese writer Juro Kara had won in 1982 the prestigious Akutagawa literary prize for his novel "The letter of Sagawa", dedicated to the crime. Two anthropologists had also made a documentary about him in 2018, titled "Caniba", in which Issei Sagawa said he was not able to "explain" his act. "This is simply my fantasy. I can't say anything more specific," he said in the film. "People must think I'm crazy." 
 
He described his "obsession" as "impossible to contain", declaring: "I wanted to eat buttocks more than anything in the world". The directors of the documentary, Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, had said they were "crossed" by a host of "extremely conflicting feelings" during the months spent in the intimacy of Issei Sagawa and his brother Jun, adept at self-mutilation.  "We were disgusted, fascinated, we wanted to understand...", said Verena Paravel, adding that it was nevertheless a "film about brotherhood, about love ».
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