• Crime & Courts

Police: Tokyo train attack had copycat aspect, with more effective arson

Courtesy of a witness
Police detain Kyota Hattori, right, aboard a Keio Line train in Chofu, Tokyo, on Sunday.

The man arrested for starting a fire during a knife attack on a Tokyo train on Sunday night told police he opted to use cigarette lighter fluid after considering the effects of a similar arson incident carried out in August.

Kyota Hattori, 24, with no fixed address, was arrested by Metropolitan Police Department on suspicion of attempted murder in the attack that left 17 people injured, one seriously, on a Keio Line express train as it ran through Chofu, Tokyo.

A senior MPD official said that Hattori referred during questioning to the incident on the Odakyu Line this summer, in which the culprit used cooking oil to start a fire, and said he noticed that flames from the oil did not spread.

“Looking at the Odakyu Line train case in August, I targeted an express train which would have more passengers and used cigarette lighter fluid,” Hattori told police.

Following the August attack, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry in September called on train operators to improve their capabilities to detect suspicious persons and items. With a similar incident occurring again, the ministry was to issue a new directive Monday to increase vigilance, while also considering further crime prevention measures.

According to the senior MPD official, as the 10-car express train ran near Fuda Station in Chofu at about 8 p.m. on Sunday, Hattori sprayed pesticide into the eyes of a seated 72-year-old male company employee from Tokyo, then stabbed him in his right chest with an approximately 30-centimeter-long knife in an attempt to kill him. The knife pierced the man’s lung, and he is currently in critical condition.

After that, Hattori moved to another car, where he spread the lighter fluid and set seats and the surroundings on fire. As a result, 16 men and women, ranging in age from a junior high school student to those in their 60s, sustained minor injuries, mainly from smoke inhalation.

Under interrogation, Hattori said he was influenced by the August case in which 10 people were injured on an Odakyu Line train as it was running through Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

“I noticed that cooking oil doesn’t burn well, so I used lighter fluid that I put in a 2-liter plastic bottle,” he said, adding that after starting the fire, he tried to intensify it by spraying the flame with an aerosol can. The MPD confiscated a number of plastic bottles containing liquids, spray cans, lighters and other items from the train.

“I messed up at work around June and wasn’t getting along with friends,” Hattori told the police. “I wanted to die. I thought that if I killed two or more people, I would get the death penalty. It didn’t matter who they were.”

The MPD will further investigate his motives.