People watched as a meek, 5-foot Japanese man carried two suitcases into the Bois de Boulogne Park, just outside Paris. The City of Light turned into a dark cloud of death when the dismembered body of 25-year-old exchange student, Renée Hartevelt, was uncovered inside the mysterious luggage. The darkness quickly lifted because police knew exactly who had killed her. They soon arrested her shy classmate, Issei Sagawa, who professed during his arrest, “I killed her to eat her flesh.”
What should have been an open and shut case of first-degree murder turned into anything but. Despite eye witness accounts, evidence found at Sagawa’s apartment, and his confession to the crime, police were unable to convict the cannibal.
A judge found that the literature student was legally insane, and unable to stand trial for Hartevelt’s murder. He was deported back to Japan, where he was institutionalized at Matsuzawa Psychiatric hospital in Tokyo. Japanese authorities tried their best to convict the killer for his crimes, but a loophole in the law led to Sagawa’s subsequent release. He checked himself out of the institution in 1986, and has been free on the streets of Japan ever since.
Instead of fading off into obscurity and keeping a low public profile, Sagawa soaked up all of the attention he received from the media at the time. His sadistic crime made the public eager to learn more about his psyche, and he went on to become an infamous figure in Japanese society. All the while, Hartevelt and her family never received justice for her untimely death.