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Japanese cannibal who raped, killed and ate a Dutch woman but was never jailed, dies at 73

A Japanese murderer known as the ‘Kobe Cannibal’ who killed and ate a Dutch student but was never jailed, has died at the age of 73.

Issei Sagawa died of pneumonia on November 24 and was given a funeral attended only by relatives, with no public ceremony planned, his younger brother and a friend said in a statement.

In 1981, Sagawa was studying in Paris when he invited Dutch student Renee Hartevelt to his home. He shot her in the neck, raped her, and then consumed parts of her body over the course of several days.

Sagawa then attempted to dispose of her remains in the Bois de Boulogne park and was arrested several days later, confessing his crime to police.

In 1983, he was deemed unfit for trial by French medical experts and was initially held in a psychiatric institution before being deported to Japan in 1984.

Hartevelt’s family pledged at the time to push for Sagawa to be prosecuted in Japan so that ‘the murderer would never go free’. But on his arrival, he was ruled sane by Japanese authorities, who decided Sagawa’s only problem was a ‘character anomaly’ and that he did not require hospitalisation.

Japanese authorities were unable to get his case files from their French counterparts, who considered the case closed, leaving the murderer to walk free.

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