Disclaimer: This post contains mentions of suicide, murder and dismemberment. Reader discretion is advised.
When feeling vulnerable, many of us take to the internet and social media to ease our pains. Perhaps we’ll find a kind stranger to talk to, or someone we can relate to. Maybe we’ll stumble upon a website with helplines or advice on what to do when feeling low or having suicidal thoughts. Or maybe, if we’re unfortunate enough, we’ll find ourselves chatting to someone like Twitter user @hangingpro.
@hangingpro was the handle of a 27 year old Japanese man named Takahiro Shiraishi who resided in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, around 26 miles South East of Tokyo. He had been living in the area since the 22nd of August, 2017.
His online avatar featured a manga illustration of a man clad in black with a noose around his neck, a red iris and cuts / abrasions to the neck and wrist. His Twitter bio advertised his enthusiasm to help suicidal individuals end their suffering and his user name described the method. “Direct message me” he said.
Shirashi’s motive, however, was not to relieve people of their pain and emptiness as a merciful gesture, such as he claimed, but to fulfill a fantasy of his own; the desire to sexually assault and kill others, using his victims vulnerable states to lure them to his apartment.
According to this article he even put out tweets from the profile that encouraged potential victims to keep their suicidal thoughts and tendencies a secret from their family and friends.
On the 24th of October, 2017, a man reported his 23 year old sister from Hachioji missing to the local police. Investigators found CCTV footage of the woman walking with a male that they later identified as Takahiro Shiraishi. In the footage the pair were in the general vicinity of his apartment, walking by the rail road tracks.
The missing young woman’s brother did some of his own investigative work and began checking his sister’s online accounts for any information pertaining to her disappearance. He discovered that she was suicidal and had been communicating online with a man whom she’d made a suicide pact with. He swiftly informed the police.
It turned out that Shiraishi had reached out to her when he saw one of her tweets which read:
“I want to die but doing so alone is terrible. I’m looking for someone to die with me.”
With the assistance of an unnamed woman who had also been in contact with Shiraishi, investigators arranged to meet the 27 year old man. When they showed up to his apartment asking if he had any information concerning the 23 year old missing woman, Shiraishi confessed all.
“She’s in here” he replied.
As police entered the modest one bedroom flat in a calm residential area, they were horrified by what they found.
(Still from a news report)
The decapitated remains of 9 people (1 male, eight female, four of which were teens) were stored around the apartment in various containers. The state of decomposition varied, indicating that he had killed his victims over the course of around 2 months.
Severed heads and a plethora of various other limbs and remains were stored throughout the abode. A major newspaper in Japan wrote that a couple of the victims had injuries consistent with strangulation.
Two of the heads were found in coolers covered in cat litter in a futile attempt to conceal the stench of death. A neighbor confessed to a reporter that he had indeed noticed a foul odor coming from the killer’s apartment, but couldn’t identify what it was as he had never smelled something like that before. The closest thing he could liken the stench to was “possibly sewage”.
In total, 240 individual bones were discovered and are currently being tested for identification. Various items belonging to (who police believe are) some of the victims, such as bags, cell phones and identification cards have also been found in the apartment.
Shiraishi told police that he kept the decapitated bodies because he didn’t know how to dispose of them and feared being caught. He admitted that he cut off the flesh and threw it out disguised as trash. He also deleted the messages sent to previous victims in an attempt to cover his tracks.
Not much is known about the type of person Takahiro Shiraishi is. He worked as a scout in the red light district of Kabukichō, Shinjuku, Tokyo (also known as “Sleepless Town”). Kabukichō consists of host and hostess clubs, night clubs, love hotels and massage parlors.
According to this report he had a previous run in with the police for attempting to trick young women into prostitution and was known in the area as “the creepy scout”. Apparently there was even a tweet circulating with a picture of his face, warning others to keep their distance.
Shiraishi had previously worked in a supermarket for around two years. When reporters interviewed ex-classmates they didn’t have much to say about him other than he was generally a quiet person who kept his head down. One school mate talked about Shiraishi passing out at school as a result of playing “the choking game” which he was particularly fond of, apparently, but other than that, he seemed to project an unassuming, meek character, socially.
An ex-girlfriend even came forward to vouch for how much of a gentle person he was.
It’s not clear if the killer was ever legitimately suicidal in any way. He is reported to have told his father: “I don’t know why I’m alive.” But I’m unsure if this was a cry for help or an admittance of his “lack of purpose”. Did Takahiro Shiraishi believe that killing was his calling or did he really just want to rape and rob without consequence? Either way, the “gentle” persona he showed to classmates, family and lovers was in no way an accurate representation of who this man was deep down inside.
Although crime is generally low in Japan, and serial killers are uncommon, this recent case bears striking similarities to the “the Suicide Website Murderer”, Hiroshi Maeue, a Japanese serial killer who connected with his victims via a suicide website in the mid 2000's.
When interviewed by investigators Shiraishi admitted that the murders were sexually and financially motivated. He is said to have sexually assaulted his female victims and accumulated over $4,000 in cash. He said that death came swiftly for his victims, and that he killed them all within a relatively short time of meeting them and most of his time was spent dismembering their corpses in the bathroom.
The first body apparently took three days to decapitate, the second, however, took only one.
The single male victim was the boyfriend of Shiraishi’s first victim. The three had spent the evening at dinner together the night before after meeting online. The next day the woman showed up to the killer’s apartment where he assaulted and murdered her. When her boyfriend came knocking in search of his significant other, Takahiro Shiraishi murdered him, too.
The rest of the victims are awaiting identification.
Takahiro Shiraishi was arrested on Halloween in 2017 for mutilation of a corpse, but is expected to face further charges after investigation.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to visit any of the following sites for advice and support: