Tokyo: A man from Japan nicknamed the "Twitter killer" for luring his victims on social media admitted in court Wednesday to murdering nine people, local media said.
Takahiro Shiraishi, 29, who is also accused of dismembering his victims and storing body parts in coolboxes, did not contest nine counts of murder, saying they "are all correct". He has also been accused of raping some of his victims.
According to reports, Shiraishi used Twitter contact victims aged between 15-26 who posted online about committing suicide, telling them he could help them in their plans, or even die alongside them.
If convicted of murder, Shiraishi faces the death penalty, which is carried out by hanging in Japan. Shiraishi's lawyers have argued that the victims had expressed suicidal thoughts and gave their consent to be killed.
The 29-year-old's lawyers want the charges to be reduced to "murder with consent", which carries a prison sentence of between six months and seven years.
However, in an interview with local media, 'the Twitter killer' said that he would tell prosecutors that he had "killed without consent".
He contends that since there were bruises on the back of the victims' heads, it means there was no consent and he did it so that they wouldn't resist.
Shiraishi was arrested three years ago by police investigating the disappearance of a 23-year-old woman who had reportedly tweeted about wanting to commit suicide. After she went missing, the woman's brother began investigating on Twitter and came across a "suspicious handle."
Police turned up at Shiraishi's front door on the morning of Halloween in 2017. Nine dismembered bodies, with as many as 240 bone parts stashed in coolers and toolboxes, in his house.
Apparently, 'the Twitter killer' had no plans of getting caught and has often boasted that it took the police a long time to finally track him down.
As per reports, more than 600 people lined up for 13 public gallery seats to observe Wednesday's first hearing.
Japan has a high rate of suicide, as more than 20,000 people take their lives annually. However, the suicide rate has been falling since its peak in 2003.