Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Spotlight: Tsutomu Miyazaki, Otaku Killer

The derogatory Japanese slang term “otaku,” essentially translates into English as “nerd.” For the Japanese it specifically refers to people with unhealthy obsessions with computers, animé, manga or Japanese video games. In fact, by the time Miyazaki, 26, was arrested in 1989 for obscene acts, he had compiled quite a collection of videotapes (5,763 to be precise), including animé, slasher movies and some torture porn, as well as photos of his victims. He also had the fourth film of the Guinea Pig film series, Mermaid in a Manhole, based on a manga series, which is easily considered one of the goriest movies ever, and due to its connection with Miyazaki and the murders, was taken out of production in Japan.

Tsutomu Miyazaki, aka the Otaku Killer, the Cannibal Nerd, the Little Girl Murderer and Dracula, was a pedophile, necrophile, sadist, fetishist and cannibal serial killer who killed four girls in Saitama Prefecture aged 4 to 7 years old: Mari Konno, 7, Masami Yoshizawa, 7, Erika Nanba, 4, and Ayako Nomoto, 5.

Miyazaki was born prematurely to an affluent family in Tokyo, Japan, on August 21, 1962. He weighed less than five pounds, and had the extreme misfortune of being born with deformed hands. The joints in his hands were fused from the wrist down, making it impossible for him to move them independently. To use them he had to move everything from his elbow down. He was the oldest of three children. His two sisters reportedly found him repulsive. He was mocked and ostracized from a young age for his “funny hands,” a wound that never healed and would one day become part of his brutal ritual.

Tsutomu Miyazaki's room.

Tsutomu Miyazaki's room.

He is described as a quiet lonely child, who from the age of 5 never opened his eyes in family photos. Both his parents worked and compensated for their absence and emotional unavailability with gifts. From an early age he turned inward and developed an unhealthy obsession with Japanese comic books. Though socially invisible, his grades were excellent, at first. Then while attending the Meidai Nakano High School he neglected his studies. His academic mediocrity made achieving his dream of a university education and a career as an English teacher impossible to pursue, so he settled for a job as a printer’s assistant, and lived with his family.

His modus operandi was luring little girls into his car, taking them each to the same secluded area to photograph them before strangling them with his hands. He then pretty consistently disrobed the bodies, sexually assaulted them, and took their clothes. His last victim, Ayako Nomoto, he took home so he could videotape the body, drink her blood and, horrifically enough, eat her hands.

All the while he was taunting the victim’s families, who received phone calls in which the caller remained silent. Ignoring the calls only egged him on, and he would let the phone ring for as long as 20 minutes in some instances. He sent them gruesome postcards, with letters cut from magazines to form words like “cold” and “death.” He would sign them with a female name “Yuko Imada,” which literally means “Now I have courage,” but is also a pun on the Japanese words for “Now I will tell you.” Mari’s parents found a box on their doorstep that contained photographs of their missing daughter’s clothing, her teeth and charred pieces of bone.

He was captured after he lured one of two sisters, leaving the other to go for help. He was caught photographing her genitals by the father, and ran, only to be caught by police at his car. He readily confessed to the four murders. His parents went into hiding when his confessions became public. Ultimately his father, who, along with his deformity, Miyazaki blamed for every one of his crimes, committed suicide by jumping into a river in 1994. On hearing the news Miyazaki said he felt, “refreshed.” Mostly for the next 20 years, Miyazaki , the consummate introvert, quietly read the many comic books that his mother would bring to the prison each week.

He was sentenced to death, and in an effort to overturn the decision, tried to convince the court that he was insane. Psychologists were divided on the issue. Miyazaki claimed to have an alter ego — Rat Man — that made him commit the murders to resurrect his dead grandfather. Some psychiatrists said he suffered from multiple personality disorder and had no concept that what he had done was wrong. Others said that he was perfectly sane, a monster who felt no remorse for his acts. It would take nearly two decades of legal wrangling, but ultimately, on June 17, 2008, at the age of 45, Miyazaki kept his date with the hangman’s noose.

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