In June 1981, Issei Sagawa murdered and partially consumed Renee Hartevelt. For his crime, he served some time in a French Gaol, then a mental institution, before being extradited to Japan. Today he is a free man and has developed a celebrity status over the years, even writing, of all things, restaurant reviews.
Sagawa was small, standing just under 5ft, and referred to himself as 'not the kind of man most women would find attractive'. He walked with a slight limp and was obsessed with tall, beautiful, white women. When he met Renée, he started to get closer to her.
Renée took a liking to Sagawa, as they could go in-depth with academic conversation. Renée was studying for her PhD in French literature, and could speak multiple languages. They spent quite a lot of time together, going out to concerts or just in each others company at Renée's apartment.
Sagawa knew he had to have her. Most of their time together was under the pretence that Sagawa wanted Renée to teach him German (a language she was fluent in).
One night Sagawa invited her over to his apartment, to work on a poem he needed to translate from German for a class. It was this evening that he would put his plan into place, a plan where all his efforts were to culminate into becoming a reality.
She was asleep and Sagawa looked around for something to pass her further into unconsciousness. Before he could, the woman woke up, and upon finding Sagawa in her bedroom, began to scream, causing him to flee.
He never forgot that night, and listening to Renée read out the German poetry, he knew that that night he would get to fulfil his fantasy.
Renée had been to Sagawa’s apartment before, to read poetry, but this time he wanted to record it on cassette. As Renée focussed on the microphone she did not see Sagawa approach her from behind and, with a rifle, fire on her at close range, to the back of her neck.
Sagawa remembers her reciting a few more words before falling silent and falling from the chair. He continued to speak to her, but she was silent. Soon after Sagawa fainted.
He removed her clothing and had sex with her corpse. Afterwards, when it came to the eating he decided that he would like to try her buttocks first. He chose the right one simply for the fact that the left buttock was closer to the heart and he was afraid of the sight of blood.
He tried biting into it, but could not easily penetrate the skin. He then tried with a kitchen knife, but that too was hard work. He took a small snippet of her nose and consumed that, to sate his hunger as he went out to buy some more practical instruments with which to carve up a corpse
As he enjoyed her body, in the many ways he did, he continued to tell Renée she was delicious, and that he loved her.
Sagawa, having tasted different portions of the body, now began to cut off bits with an electric knife. He stored the parts he enjoyed the most in his fridge for later. These he would consume raw or cook up into a meal.
He would listen to the tape recording of her reciting the poem as he ate, and would use pieces of her clothing as a napkin. His favourite parts were her thighs. He disliked consuming her breast, as it was 'greasy'.
After several days the body began to smell, and flies had appeared in his house. Sagawa decided he needed to get rid of it.
Sagawa is Caught
Sagawa was driven to Bois de Boulogne, a large park in Paris, with the hope of tossing them into one of the lakes/ponds. However, he was quite the spectacle, being such a small man obviously struggling with the cases. People began to stare at him so he dropped the suitcases and ran.
The police were soon called as the suitcases were obviously bloody and the body was discovered. It was not a hard job to trace the cases back to Sagawa, who had only recently purchased them for this very purpose.
Police quickly arrived at Sagawa’s apartment, and he politely let them enter. After a brief search they found remains in the fridge, and Sagawa freely and calmly confessed to what he had done.
A Slap on the Wrist...
Sagawa was soon visited and interviewed by a Japanese author, who published his account of the events that took place in the apartment that night and the following days.
Sagawa became somewhat of a celebrity in Japan, and it was the publicity that surrounded him that eventually saw the French extradite him to Japan (with a little push due to the pressure amounting from Sagawa’s lawyer) to spend out the remainder of his sentence in a mental institution.
When he arrived Sagawa was examined by several Japanese psychiatrists, who determined he was sane and could stand for a trial in Japan. While he awaited his trial, he spent just over a year in a minimum security prison.
Unfortunately (fortunately for Sagawa) the French authorities would not release the legal documents to Japan, as the case was closed in France, and it was against their justice system to send evidence and testimony.
With no evidence or witnesses Sagawa was released. He had spent less than five years in prison or otherwise incarcerated for the murder and cannibalism of Renée Hartevelt.
After his release, Sagawa became an instant celebrity, touring his country for appearances on television, and doing interviews in printed media and the radio. He could openly talk about what he had done, as he had served his time and was now immune to further punishment. He wrote several books and became a respected restaurant reviewer.
He became known as 'The Godfather of Cannibalism', and made cameos and played small roles in movies.
Today his celebrity status has diminished and he is unable to find work. He states that 'being forced to make a living, while being known as a murderer and cannibal is a terrible punishment'.