Osaka arson suspect said to have spiraled downward after divorce

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The burned interior of the Nishi-Umeda Kokoro to Karada no Clinic in Kita Ward, Osaka, on Sunday afternoon

People who knew Morio Tanimoto, the suspect in the deadly arson attack at a clinic in central Osaka, have expressed shock that the once-trusted craftsman could have been involved in such a terrible incident.

Tanimoto is said to have become increasingly isolated after the breakdown of his marriage. He was admitted to the hospital in cardiac arrest, and as of Monday was still in critical condition.

Now 61, Tanimoto was born in Osaka’s Konohana Ward in 1960 as the second son among four children, in a family that ran a steel-metal factory. After graduating from high school, he worked with sheet metal, mainly for roofs and walls. He honed his skills as he moved from one factory to another, including the one run by his parents.

“He was a dedicated craftsman. He had the most advanced skills in the workplace, and he was a big help,” recalled a now 78-year-old man who was the president of a sheet-metal factory in Yodogawa Ward, Osaka, where Tanimoto worked for about eight years from 2002.

Tanimoto was not good at socializing, however, and was not close to any of his coworkers, according to the former president. When there were disagreements at work, Tanimoto would often turn red and become silent, but he was never violent.

According to the former president and others, Tanimoto was married to a nurse, and they lived in an apartment in Osaka’s Nishiyodogawa Ward with their two sons. They divorced in September 2008, and Tanimoto started to live on his own after leaving the family home.

After about a year, he asked his ex-wife to get back together. When she refused, his life became disordered and he gambled a lot of money on horse races. In 2010, he began to be absent from work without permission and eventually fell out of contact.

Tanimoto appears to have moved into a house in Nishiyodogawa Ward about one to two months ago, according to his neighbors, but he did not interact with them.

His elder brother, who also lives in Osaka City, said he had not seen Tanimoto for over 30 years, after they became estranged around the time their father passed away.

“I feel very sorry for so many people who lost their lives,” the brother said.

Security footage used

Osaka prefectural police found evidence of Tanimoto’s involvement in the attack partly through a “relay method” that traced security camera footage in sequence from the house where he lived to the crime scene.

The attack on the clinic occurred at around 10:20 a.m. Friday, on the fourth floor of the Dojima Kita Building in Osaka’s Kita Ward. When prefectural police gathered information on suspicious fires in the area, looking into the possibility of serial arson, they learned there had been an incident at a house in Nishiyodogawa Ward about 30 minutes prior to the clinic attack.

A bag of medicine prescribed by the clinic was found inside the house. Considering the possibility that someone from the house had been involved, the police collected footage from security cameras in the area.

As a result, they discovered that Tanimoto left the house on a bicycle just before the fire department arrived. A nearby security camera showed him riding the bike with two paper bags.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A bicycle confiscated by the Osaka prefectural police is seen in Kita Ward, Osaka, on Saturday.

Security cameras in the vicinity of the Dojima Kita Building showed Tanimoto carrying two paper bags, one in each hand, and entering the building. The fire broke out on the fourth floor soon afterward.

Clinic director among victims

The prefectural police on Sunday identified Kotaro Nishizawa, director of the Nishi-Umeda Kokoro to Karada no Clinic, as one of the 24 people killed at the clinic of psychosomatic medicine.

Nishizawa, 49, opened the clinic in 2015 after working as a psychiatrist at a hospital in Nara Prefecture and elsewhere. He diligently supported his patients through such efforts as a “rework program” for people who became unable to work due to mental disorders.

“I was able to think about working again thanks to the doctor,” said a woman who attended the clinic’s program and returned to work in June. Shedding tears, she said, “I pray for him to rest well in the sky.”