Bizarre: The story of Issei Sagawa

Posted on Wednesday 13 January 2010 at 07:33 am in category: Anti Helden - Anti Heroes
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Issei Sagawa

In the last couple of weeks, I noticed that most of the visitors to my humble blog get here after searching Google for 'Renée Hartevelt'. This is because of a post I wrote in November of 2008, in a series of articles about bad people, so I thought it would be nice to rewrite it in English.

I have some strange fascinations. One of them is that I'm interested in everything that has to do with serial killers. Believe it or not, I actually own a bunch of books on the subject, though the person this article is about is technically not a serial killer (as far as I know, he's killed once). Nevertheless, the story of Issei Sagawa is bizarre.

Issei Sagawa

Issei Sagawa

At first sight Issei Sagawa looks like a friendly, albeit somewhat weird gentleman from Japan. He was born on June 11th 1949 in Kobe, Japan (you might have heard of Kobe because of the earthquake). Since he was a pretty good student, and his parents had enough money, they sent him to the world-famous Sorbonne University in Paris, to study modern literature.

Issei Sagawa, standing around 5 feet tall, and not what you would call 'handsome', was obsessed by tall European women, and in 1981 he met the beautiful Dutch (yes) female student Renée Hartevelt.This is Lindsay Hawker. In spite of not being attracted to Issei, Renée did go on a couple of dates with him, and when he asked her to teach him German in exchange for money, she agreed. — Edit: The picture you see there is not Renée Hartevelt, it is actually Lindsay Hawker, a totally different person, also murdered in a totally unrelated case —

Things went their way for a while, but Sagawa's fantasies got wilder and wilder, especially his fantasy about eating Renée. This is of course something you don't just ask somebody you're dating, so instead he decided to shoot her in the neck while she was reading him a German poem in his apartment. After this, he started chopping her body up and eating it. A lot of people cringe at the idea, but remember that Japanese people eat sushi too, so they're used to strange foods.

For two days he ate parts of her body, but after that it started to smell a little funny in his apartment, not to mention the flies that appeared all of a sudden, so he decided it was time to clean up. With an electric knife he cut the leftovers in chunks, and stuffed everything in two suitcases he bought especially for the occasion. He took a cab to the 'Bois de Bologne', where he planned to dump the suitcases in a pond. When he noticed there were people walking around, he panicked, dropped the suitcases and ran. Suitcases with body parts in them (do not click that link while you're eating) don't lay around unnoticed very long, and soon after that the French police was looking for the owner of said suitcases. In the mean time, Sagaw was snacking on some left-overs he had saved in the fridge.

The French police is not as incompetent as you think, so two days later they payed a visit to Sagawa's residence. Soon after that, he was locked up, and was interrogated by three psychiatrists. The specialists concluded that Sagawa had a few screws loose, and chances of curing him from his mental illness were slim to none. He was brought to the Henri Colin Institution, without trial. His dad, an influential man in Japan, managed to get him moved to Japan. Back in the old country, psychiatrists came to the conclusion that there was nothing wrong with Sagawa, and he was transfered to a normal low security prison. Evidently, Japanese psychiatrists' perception of 'normal' is quite different form their French counterparts. I thought French people had strange ideas about what is normal, but apparently the Japanese can top this.

After being in prison for about 15 months, Issei Sagawa was released (thanks to his fathers money and influence, and the quirks of the French justice system). Yes, you read that right, after murdering and eating Renée Hartevelt, he was out and about after less than 5 years in prison.Sagaw as a guest in a Japanese talk show

Things will get more bizarre though. After what he'd done, Sagawa became a famous person in Japan, and of course you can make money off of that. He was invited for several appearances in TV shows, where he proudly tells the story of eating human flesh. He also wrote four books, of which the one describing the whole incident became a best-seller. His nickname in Japan is 'The Godfather of Cannibalism', and he seems to take pride in that.

Nowadays, he has become an artist (no pictures here, it's not even worth looking at), plays small rolls in obscure Japanese movies, and his goal in life now seems to be eaten by a woman. Personally, I hope he dies a slow and painful death.

By the way, a good read on the bizarre practice of cannibalism is this book: A History of Cannibalism: From Ancient Cultures to Survival Stories and Modern Psychopaths

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