ssei Sagawa didn’t just wake up one day and randomly murder a woman to eat her flesh. Rather, he nursed cannibalistic thoughts for 32 years before he killed anyone. Sagawa recalls his earliest urge to eat a person in first grade when he looked at a classmate’s thighs and thought it looked delicious.
Maybe it was his psychical attributes that made him so “attracted” to other people’s legs — Sagawa was always short “with legs that resembled pencils.” But he isn’t interested in eating men, only women who he finds sexually attractive.
Issei Sagawa claims that Western depictions of women like Grace Kelly fueled his desires and sparked his cannibalistic fantasies. So while other men would think of having sexual intercourse with these women, Sagawa was satisfied to dream of eating their flesh.
An Educated Cannibal
In 1981, Issei Sagawa moved to Paris to study literature at a public research university, Sorbonne. Something about the change in the environment fueled his desires even further. Although Sawaga was adamant that his first fantasies of western women were not to kill them but only to gnaw on their flesh, his desires soon evolved once he got the opportunity to satisfy them.
“ALMOST EVERY NIGHT, I WOULD BRING A PROSTITUTE HOME AND THEN TRY TO SHOOT THEM FROM BEHIND… IT BECAME LESS ABOUT WANTING TO EAT THEM, BUT MORE AN OBSESSION WITH THE IDEA THAT I SIMPLY HAD TO CARRY OUT THIS ‘RITUAL’ OF KILLING A GIRL NO MATTER WHAT.”Issei Sagawa
Sadly, he would find a perfect victim to carry out his ritual on.
The First Victim of Issei Sagawa
Renee Hartevelt was also a student at the Sorbonne. Sagawa struck a friendship with the Dutch student — entirely civil and cordial — till she came to trust him. She started to visit him in his home for occasional dinners, and on one of those nights, Sagawa made his move.
Unsuccessfully, he fired his gun at her when her back was turned. Instead of his failure to deter his efforts, it only pushed him further over the edge.
So he invited her over the very next night, on which he finally succeeded in killing her — shooting Hartevelt dead instantly. He only faced split-second remorse before he delved into satisfying his gnawing fantasies of 32 years.
But he didn’t go straight to eating her corpse; he raped it first. Then, he cut her open.
“THE FIRST THING I DID WAS CUT INTO HER BUTTOCK. NO MATTER HOW DEEP I CUT, ALL I SAW WAS THE FAT BENEATH THE SKIN. IT LOOKED LIKE CORN, AND IT TOOK A WHILE TO ACTUALLY REACH THE RED MEAT. THE MOMENT I SAW THE MEAT, I TORE A CHUNK OFF WITH MY FINGERS AND THREW IT INTO MY MOUTH. IT WAS TRULY A HISTORICAL MOMENT FOR ME.”Issei Sagawa
According to Sawaga, his only regret was to not eat her while she was still breathing. Even though no one believes him, he claims not to have wanted to actually kill her, only to eat her attractive flesh.
Those Bloody Suitcases
Sagawa doesn’t believe that he has a psychological problem. According to him, his tendencies are only an extension of his sexual drive. They are not to be conceptualized or explained.
“IT’S SIMPLY A FETISH. FOR EXAMPLE, IF A NORMAL MAN FANCIED A GIRL, HE’D NATURALLY FEEL A DESIRE TO SEE HER AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE, TO BE CLOSE TO HER, TO SMELL HER AND KISS HER, RIGHT? TO ME, EATING IS JUST AN EXTENSION OF THAT. FRANKLY, I CAN’T FATHOM WHY EVERYONE DOESN’T FEEL THIS URGE TO EAT, TO CONSUME, OTHER PEOPLE.”Issei Sagawa
After two days of her untimely death, her murderer wanted to dispose of her remains. By then, Sagawa had eaten or frozen all he could from her pelvic region. He put the rest — Renee’s head, torso, and legs — into two suitcases and got into a cab heading to the Bois de Boulogne park.
The park was the perfect spot to drop boxes full of a dismembered body unnoticed — since it had a secluded lake inside it. Fortunately, bystanders did notice both suitcases were dripping with blood and called the police.
No Fuss, No Remorse
When the French police arrested him, Sawaga simply confessed,
“I KILLED HER TO EAT HER FLESH.”Issei Sagawa
After awaiting trial for two years, French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere declared Sagawa mentally unfit to answer for the charges leveled against him. So, they were dropped. The court ordered that he be held indefinitely in a mental institution and deported him back to Japan.
But he was not held indefinitely.
Roaming The Streets of Tokyo
Once Sagawa reached Japan, it was legally impossible to keep him in prison. Since France dropped the charges against him, they sealed the court documents. So, the necessary information did not get into the hands of the Japanese authorities. With no case against him, Japan had to let Sagawa walk.
Issei Sagawa checked himself out of a mental institution in 1986 and still walks the streets of Tokyo as a free man today.
Even more terrifying is that a threat of consequences — life in prison or death — has done nothing to suppress his urges. He still fantasizes about eating women.
“THE DESIRE TO EAT PEOPLE BECOMES SO INTENSE AROUND JUNE WHEN WOMEN START WEARING LESS AND SHOWING MORE SKIN. JUST TODAY, I SAW A GIRL WITH A REALLY NICE DERRIÈRE ON MY WAY TO THE TRAIN STATION. WHEN I SEE THINGS LIKE THAT, I THINK ABOUT WANTING TO EAT SOMEONE AGAIN BEFORE I DIE.”Issei Sagawa
“WHAT I’M SAYING IS, I CAN’T BEAR THE THOUGHT OF LEAVING THIS LIFE WITHOUT EVER TASTING THAT DERRIÈRE THAT I SAW THIS MORNING, OR HER THIGHS. I WANT TO EAT THEM AGAIN WHILE I’M ALIVE, SO THAT I CAN AT LEAST BE SATISFIED WHEN I DIE.”Issei Sagawa
“I THINK EITHER SUKIYAKI OR SHABU-SHABU [LIGHTLY BOILED THIN SLICES] IS THE BEST WAY TO GO, IN ORDER TO REALLY SAVOUR THE NATURAL FLAVOUR OF THE MEAT.”Issei Sagawa
Although Sagawa has refrained from cannibalism in the meantime — writing and publishing books instead — his work and habits don’t show any signs of him suppressing his desires. Most recently, Sagawa published his 20th work, titled “Extremely Intimate Fantasies of Beautiful Girls,” filled with pictures drawn by himself and other artists.
Armed with his fantasies and a plan of execution, Sagawa is a threat to other free people, particularly women. After all, he had nursed these fantasies passively in the past before acting on them.
What’s to say that he won’t do the same in the future?