Crime Scene Photography · France

Man murders, rapes, cannibalizes classmate (graphic)

June 11, 1981
Paris, France
Issei Sagawa (佐川 一政) murders a classmate, rapes her corpse, and cannibalizes parts of her body

Sagawa (32) had described himself as short (he was 4’9”), weak, and ugly. He believed if he ate the body of someone beautiful and tall, he would gain these characteristics. To this end, he selected Renée Hartevelt, an attractive 25-year-old who stood at 5’10”.

Sagawa invited Hartevelt to his apartment under the pretense of working on poetry translations. Once Hartevelt was in his home, Sagawa shot her in the neck with a hunting rifle. Sagawa claimed he fainted from the murder but, once he regained consciousness, continued with his plan. He raped Hartevelt’s body and bit her flesh. When her skin was too difficult for Sagawa to puncture with his teeth, he purchased a butcher knife to carve her body.

For two days, Sagawa cut pieces of Hartevelt’s corpse, saving some pieces in his refrigerator, and cooking and consuming others. He then put Hartevelt’s dismembered body in two suitcases which Sagawa attempted to dump in a lake, but was discovered by French police in the act.

During trial, the French courts found Sagawa mentally unfit to stand trial and was sentenced to a mental health facility indefinitely, though he was later deported to Japan. Due to the charges against Sagawa being dropped in France, his court documents were sealed and inadmissible in a Japanese trial. Without the evidence linking him to the murder, Japanese courts were unable to detain Sagawa. He has been free since 1986 and has held minor celebrity status due to the publicity of Hartevelt’s murder.

Vice magazine interviewed Sagawa in 2009, during which Sagawa bemoaned his freedom. He is quoted as saying, “Even with a life sentence, they give you clothes, food, and shelter in jail, plus they let you work. But if you’re out in society, you have to somehow make a living and find a place to stay. What harsher punishment can there be? It’s brutal.”

WARNING: the next images are of Hartevelt’s body. They are graphic in nature. Discretion is strongly advised.

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