Surprise Motive in Japan Killings

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 24, 2008

TOKYO, Nov. 24 -- The motive behind stabbings last week that killed a former Japanese health minister and his wife -- and forced the prime minister to cancel his morning walk -- appears to be anger over a long-dead dog.

Police had suspected that the attacks were linked to public fury over bureaucratic bungling in the loss of millions of pension records.

Alarming government officials across Japan, a man with a knife last Monday and Tuesday attacked the homes of two retired vice ministers who had led the pension department in the Health and Welfare Ministry in the 1980s, when records were lost during a botched computerization effort.

But Takeshi Koizumi, 46 and unemployed, who turned himself in to police over the weekend, bringing along a bloody knife, has told police he was "hacked off" not about pension issues but about the death of his dog in a local pound.

Police said Koizumi admitted to killing the former vice minister and his wife, as well as to involvement in the knife attack on the wife of another vice minister.

Koizumi is believed to have sent an e-mail message to a Tokyo television station that elaborated on his motives. "The uprising this time is not a pension terror attack," he wrote, according to the Tokyo Broadcasting System. "This is revenge for the killing by a health-care center of my family member 34 years ago. Even now, they keep killing as many as 500,000 innocent pets every year. They should know that if they commit needless butchery, it will come back to them."

Koizumi's 77-year-old father explained to reporters about the dead dog. He said that the family adopted a stray dog when his son was in elementary school. But the dog barked too much, the father said, and he took it to a pound, where it was euthanized. The father said he took the dog away without his son's knowledge or consent.

Koizumi, it appears, attacked officials from an agency that has nothing to do with dog pounds. The pounds are run by local governments, not by the Health and Welfare Ministry.

After last week's knife attacks, police here were dispatched to guard the homes of senior bureaucrats in the health ministry. Press reports Monday said police would protect them until forensic evidence, such as DNA testing, links Koizumi to both knife attacks.

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