The Murderer and Cannibal Celebrity - Issei Sagawa
In 1981, a Japanese man named Issei Sagawa was seen at a park on the outskirts of Paris, carrying two suitcases. When he spotted some people watching him, he got scared and just left the suitcases. The contents of those suitcases was the dismembered body of a fellow student – a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt, whom Sagawa had shot three days prior and had spent the days since eating various parts of her body.
The police tracked the suitcases to Sagawa and he was arrested without any struggle. Sagawa freely admitted in crimes in every gruesome and gory detail, first by telling of his desire to eat her. He did so after having sex with the corpse. For two days, Sagawa ate various parts of her body. He described the meat as “soft” and “odorless”, like tuna. He showed no remorse for the crime and seemed to brag about his exploits.
After being held for two years without trial, the French court found him “obviously” legally insane and unfit to stand trial and ordered Sagawa to be held indefinitely in a mental institution.
The subsequent publicity and macabre celebrity status of Sagawa likely contributed to the French authorities’ decision to have him extradited to Japan. Upon arrival in Japan, he was immediately taken to a mental hospital and examined by psychologists who all found him to be sane but “evil”.
However, Japanese authorities found it to be legally impossible to hold him, purportedly because they lacked certain important papers from the French court. As a result, Sagawa checked himself out of the mental institution in 1986 and has been a free man ever since.
To make this story even more horrific, Sagawa became a minor celebrity in Japan and continues to make a living through the public’s interest in his crime. He has written books about the murder he committed and is often invited as a guest speaker and commentator. Even more disgusting, Sagawa made his acting debut playing a sadosexual voyeur, and is probably the first cannibal in history that was paid to write restaurant reviews.
In addition, Sagawa’s story has inspired short films, one entitled Cannibal Superstar, documentaries, and even a Rolling Stone’s song, Too Much Blood.
In 2009, Sagawa was documented in a History Channel show titled Strange Rituals discussing cannibalism. The show reveals Sagawa as a freelance artist of nude paintings. He is now 63 years old and continues to live in Tokyo.