Suspected arsonist believed his novel was stolen by Kyoto Animation studio: Reports

Suspected arsonist believed his novel was stolen by Kyoto Animation studio: Reports

At least two dozen people died in a fire at an animation company building in Kyoto
A general view of the Kyoto Animation building, where at least two dozen people died in a fire on Jul 18, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Buddhika Weerasinghe)

KYOTO: A man suspected of torching an animation studio, killing 33 people in Japan's worst mass killing in two decades, carried out the attack because he believed his novel had been plagiarised, local media reported on Friday (Jul 19).

The man wheeled a trolley carrying at least one bucket of petrol to the entrance of the Kyoto Animation studio before dousing the area, shouting "die" and setting it ablaze on Thursday, broadcaster Nippon TV said, citing police.

READ: Suspected arsonist planned Japan's worst mass killing in 18 years: Reports

Police identified the suspected arsonist as Shinji Aoba, who was taken into custody soon after the attack, local broadcaster NHK said, adding that he had not been arrested.

"I did it," the 41-year-old told police when he was detained, Kyodo News reported. It said that he had started the fire because he believed the studio had stolen his novel.

NHK reported that Aoba suffers from a mental illness and served three-and-a-half years in prison after stealing cash from a convenience store.

Police declined to comment. Broadcaster Nippon TV said the suspect was under anaesthesia because of burns he suffered and police were unable to question him.

"(He) seemed to be discontented, he seemed to get angry, shouting something about how he had been plagiarised," a woman who saw the man being detained told reporters.

The explosive fire killed 33 people and 10 more are in critical condition, authorities said. It marks the worst mass killing since a suspected arson attack in Tokyo killed 44 people in 2001.

READ: Deadly Kyoto fire: What we know

READ: Torched Japanese anime studio had received 'death threats'

Aoba was believed to have bought two 20-litre gasoline cans at a hardware store and prepared the petrol in a park near the studio, Nippon TV said.

He travelled to the area by train, the broadcaster said.

NHK showed footage of him lying on his back as he spoke to a police officer at the time of his detention, shoeless and with apparent burns on his right leg below the knee.

He had no connection with Kyoto Animation and his driver's licence gave an address in the north Tokyo suburb of Saitama, about 480km east of Kyoto, NHK said.

None of the victims' identities had been disclosed as of Friday. There were 74 people inside the building when the fire started, Kyodo News reported.

BODIES PILED UP

The building did not have any sprinklers or indoor fire hydrants, though it was not legally required to by the fire code, a Kyoto Fire Department official said.

Nineteen of the 33 who died were found on a staircase leading up to the roof from the third floor, bodies piled on top of each other, Kyodo News reported, citing authorities.

Firefighters arriving soon after the fire began found the door to the roof was shut but could be opened from the outside, the news agency said.

The victims may have rushed up the stairs to escape the blaze and found themselves unable to open the door, it added.

READ: Spiral stairs, no sprinklers may have contributed to deadly Japan fire

The fire wasn't put out until early Friday morning.

Police investigators searched the smouldering shell of the building for evidence in an investigation that covered suspected arson, murder and attempted murder, Kyodo News reported.

Two petrol cans, a rucksack and a trolley were found near the site, and television images showed what appeared to be five long knives laid out by police as possible evidence outside the three-storey building.

Kyoto Animation, in a quiet suburb about 20 minutes by train from the centre of Kyoto, produces popular "anime" series such as the Sound! Euphonium.

Its Free! Road to the World - The Dream movie is due for release this month.

Source: Agencies/ga

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