Issei Sagawa was born on April 26, 1949, in Kobe, Japan. The young boy was born into a fairly wealthy family with his father being a successful businessman at Kurita Water Industries. At an early age, he was diagnosed with a disease that infected his small intestine that was later cured after years of treatment. The diagnoses led him to be an introvert and loner at a young age, one who excelled in school with a fascination with literature.

But literature wasn’t the only thing Sagawa was fascinated by in school. What filled his mind wasn’t words on a page but the flesh of his classmates. The boy started have cannibalistic desires, ones brought on by seeing his fellow classmates. The first incident was in the first grade when his eyes caught the thigh of one of the kids in his class. This was to be known as his first account of cannibalistic cravings.

As he grew out of adolescence and into a young adult he began having inappropriate behaviors with his dog, and admitted years later to having a bestiality relationship with it. Also as he grew his desire for flesh did too, particularly the flesh of women.

The boy went to later attend university at Wako University to study one of his more normal fascinations of English Literature. It was in college that his desires for human flesh became to much to bear, and the young man decided to take action upon the idea.

At 24, he followed a woman home with the idea of slicing off a piece of her for himself while she was asleep. When caught in the act, the woman frightened, pushed Issei to the ground, foiling his attempt. Sagawa was later arrested by Japanese authorities and charged with attempted sexual assault.

Not admitting the true intention for the crime his charges were later dropped with his victim receiving a settlement from Sagawa’s family. In attempt to escape his past, the newly ‘innocent’ young man moved to France and enrolled in university to continue his studies in literature.

The desires for flesh however followed with him to Europe. He would frequently bring over prostitutes with the intent of killing them and feasting on their flesh. Although he attempted many times he never could pull himself to follow through with the murders.

That was until he met college classmate, Renée Hartevelt. The two befriended each other and became good friends, whether Renée knew the true intentions behind the friendship or not.

One night Sagawa invited the young woman over to allegedly help translate poems for the young lady over dinner. In an attempt to “absorb her energy” he later stated in an interview, he shot Hartevelt in the neck killing her in cold blood.

After what he’s wanted for so long, what followed was what some would say was even more inhumane. Sagawa began to have intercourse with the corpse, mutilating the young woman’s body. He then began butchering her corpse with a butchers knife, consuming her flesh cooked or even raw, storing whatever he didn’t finish in his refrigerator. He also shot photos of the dismembered young woman in each stage of his consumption of her.

After four days of feasting on the woman’s tissue, Issei packed the remains in suitcases to be later dumped into a lake in attempt to rid himself of the evidence. The plan was almost foolproof until pedestrians noticed blood leaking from his suitcases in which they alerted French authorities. Almost upon immediate confrontation, Sagawa confessed to what he had did. Authorities discovered and confiscated the remains of the body, placing Issei under arrest.

It was there in France a judge found Sagawa not fit to stand trial and dropped the charges. The murderer deemed clinically insane was deported back to Japan where he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a mental institution.

But due to a legal technicality, the French documents used to convict Sagawa in France were sealed to Japanese officials, leaving no substantial evidence to convict him under law. Essentially he was a free man.

Sagawa signed and released himself out of institutional custody on the Aug. 12, 1986. Since then he’s been granted freedom to roam as a free man under legality.

In a interview in 2017 he expressed his desire to do it again stating “I want to eat them again while I’m alive, so that I can at least be satisfied when I die.”

Sagawa lives as a free man in a town right outside of Tokyo to this day.

Listen to the Armchair Detectives Horror Hotspot episode about the Kobe Cannibal below.

"Horror Hotspot: The Tylenol Murders and the Stanley Hotel" | TCFM's Armchair Detectives – Season 2, Episode 6 TCFM's Armchair Detectives

Join host Bren McDonald and a rotating group of Armchair Detectives as they discuss true crime stories and cold cases then speculate on what happened to try to solve them. In this episode, the group discusses the Tylenol Murders and the infamous Stanley Hotel. CONTENT WARNING: Some episodes include discussions of crimes and stories some may find disturbing. Individual episodes have more specific content warnings about the specific cases.
  1. "Horror Hotspot: The Tylenol Murders and the Stanley Hotel" | TCFM's Armchair Detectives – Season 2, Episode 6
  2. "Horror Hotspot: The Kobe Cannibal and Élan School" | TCFM's Armchair Detectives – Season 2, Episode 6
  3. "Horror Hotspot: Elyse Pahler, Martha Moxley, Disappearance of Marler" | TCFM's Armchair Detectives – Season 2, Episode 5
  4. "Unsolved Murder of Lisa Ann Henderson and the murdering of the Sun family" | TCFM's Armchair Detectives – Season 2, Episode 4
  5. "Slenderman Murders, JFK's Assassination, and conspiracy theories with What's Poppin'?" | TCFM's Armchair Detectives – Season 2, Episode 3

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