A Japanese man dubbed the “Twitter Killer” pleaded guilty on Wednesday to murdering nine people after arranging meetings with them via the social network, in what has become one of the country’s most shocking and high-profile serial killings.
Takahiro Shiraishi, 29, was first arrested in 2017 after body parts and dismembered corpses were discovered in his flat. On Wednesday, he told a court that the allegations against him “are all true,” meaning he will likely face the death penalty via hanging, which is still the punishment for murder in Japan.
According to prosecutors, Shiraishi opened a Twitter account in March 2017 in order “to contact women contemplating suicide, whom he saw as easy targets.” He is understood to have told victims he could help them die and in some cases even promised to kill himself as well.
“I want to help people who are really in pain,” his Twitter profile read. “Please DM [direct message] me anytime.”
All of his victims were women, aged between 15 and 27. A 20-year-old man was also killed after he reportedly confronted Shiraisi about the whereabouts of his deceased girlfriend.
His lawyers are calling for leniency on the grounds that Shiaraishi victims were all suicidal and allegedly “expressed their wishes to end their lives to an unspecified number of people on social media.”
“The victims envisioned that their deaths would be achieved at his hands,” said one of his lawyers. If this argument is accepted, his sentence will likely be downgraded to life in prison.
However, Shiraishi himself has denied this version of events, admitting to Mainichi Shimbun that he murdered them.
“There were bruises on the back of the victims’ heads,” he told the newspaper. “It means there was no consent and I did it so that they wouldn’t resist.”
Shiraishi had recently moved to the city of Zama to work as a scout recruiting women for prostitution and the sex industry. His neighbors told investigators after his arrest that they had noticed foul smells emanating from his apartment months after he moved in, but chose not to report it to authorities.
The case has shocked Japan and led to a clampdown from the government on websites and social media platforms where vulnerable people share suicidal thoughts. It also drew a response from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who described himself as “deeply saddened” that his platform had been used for such horrors.
“We need to take on a responsibility to make sure our tool is being used in positive and healthy ways,” he said at the time.
Shiraishi is expected to be sentenced on December 15th.