Issei Sagawa managed to escape trial for the murder of Renee Hartevelt and even became a celebrity in his native Japan – where he sold paintings and starred in a porn film
A cannibal killer who murdered and ate a classmate never served a prison sentence.
Issei Sagawa even became a celebrity in his native Japan.
Sagawa told French police in 1981 that he had killed his Dutch classmate, Renee Hartevelt, saying “I killed her to eat her flesh.”
Sagawa was born in 1949 and claims he started fantasizing about eating human flesh when he was six years old.
He was telling his favorite childhood story, Hansel and Gretal, and he remembers staring at his classmates’ thighs in elementary school and thinking, “Mm, that looks delicious.”
As he got older, his cannibalistic fantasies turned sexual as he began fantasizing about eating the flesh of women, particularly western celebrities like actress Grace Kelly.
At 23, he broke into the Tokyo apartment of a young German woman wearing a Frankenstein monster mask.
She woke up before he could charge and overpower the four foot tall Sagawa.
Sagawa told police he planned to sexually assault her and his wealthy father paid the young woman to have the charges dropped and Sagawa was free.
In 1977, the distraught Sagawa went to Paris to study languages and literature at the renowned Sorbonne University.
Sagawa, then 28, became friends with Renee and she regularly visited his home to give him German lessons.
On June 11, 1981, while Renee was at his apartment for dinner, Sagawa shot her in the neck.
He recalled, “I was thinking about calling an ambulance, but then I was like, ‘Wait, don’t be stupid.’
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“You’ve been dreaming of this for 32 years and now it’s actually happened!”
He then raped Renee’s dead body before eating parts of her flesh.
He ate part of the meat raw and other parts before eating.
Over the course of two days, the hideous cannibal ate parts of Renee’s breasts, calves, lips, and thighs.
Deciding it was time to get rid of the body, he packed two large suitcases and stuffed the rest of her body inside before calling a cab.
The taxi driver took him to a nearby park and Sagawa attempted to drop off the bags at Bois de Boulogne Park.
However, two horrified joggers saw blood dripping from them and alerted police.
The police, with the help of the taxi driver, were soon able to link the cases to Sagawa.
In his apartment, they made the gruesome discovery of leftover food, including cooked human meat, and Renee’s photo ID.
He was arrested and held in France for two years, where psychologists examined him.
Sagawa’s father intervened again, hiring a top attorney who had him declared legally insane and unfit to stand trial.
For the next four years, Sagawa was in a high-security French psychiatric ward, where he wrote and illustrated a novel called In the Mist.
The book tells the disturbing story of a man who murders a woman, rapes her corpse and eats bits of her flesh.
Many believed this was an account of his crimes.
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Gruesome crime scene photos of Renee’s murder were leaked and published in a popular French magazine in 1985.
The outrage led to a reporter being arrested and 200,000 copies of the magazine being confiscated by authorities.
Sagawa was deported back to Japan, where he was taken to a Tokyo hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Japanese doctors said he has a personality disorder but is not mentally ill, meaning he could face criminal responsibility for his heinous crimes.
However, French authorities were unwilling to help with prosecutions and Sagawa was released in 1986.
He then became a celebrity in Japan and starred in a 1992 porn film in which he pretended to cannibalize a woman.
Sagawa has written nearly 20 books and has written a weekly column in a Japanese magazine.
He appeared on Japanese cooking shows, wrote restaurant reviews and sold paintings.
Now Sagawa is 72 and lives in Tokyo under a new name.
After suffering a stroke in 2013, he is currently being cared for by a younger brother.
Sagawa claims being a cannibal was “just a fetish.
He added: “If a normal man were into a girl, of course he would want to see her, be close to her, smell her and kiss her as much as possible, right?
“To me, food is just an extension of that. To be honest, I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t have this urge to eat, to eat other people.”
“The desire to eat people gets so intense in June when women start to wear less and show more skin,” he said in a chilling interview last year.
“Just today on the way to the train station I saw a girl with a really nice butt.
In 2018 a movie called Caniba was made about his life.
He never apologized for his crimes or reached out to Renee’s family.