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Japan 'Twitter killer' Takahiro Shiraishi sentenced to death

A Japanese serial killer dubbed the 'Twitter killer' was sentenced to death by a Tokyo court today for murdering and dismembering nine people he met online.  

30-year-old Takahiro Shiraishi had admitted to murdering and dismembering his victims - almost all of whom were young women he met on the social media platform.  

The serial killings triggered debate over how suicide is discussed online.  

More than 400 people turned up to watch the verdict on Tuesday, despite the court only having 16 seats available for the public, reported local media.  

Public support for the death penalty remains high in Japan, one of the few developed nations to retain capital punishment.  

Shiraishi used Twitter to lure suicidal women to his home, saying he could help them die and, in some cases, claimed he would kill himself alongside them.  

He strangled and dismembered eight women and one man aged 15 to 26 between August and October 2017, said Japan's Kyodo news agency, citing the indictment.  

The serial killings first came to light on Halloween that year when police found dismembered body parts in Shiraishi's flat in the Japanese city of Zama, near Tokyo.  

Japanese media called it the "house of horrors" after investigators discovered nine heads along with a large number of arm and leg bones stashed in coolers and tool boxes.  

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Shiraishi.  

But Shiraishi's lawyers argued that he was guilty of the lesser charge of "murder with consent", claiming his victims had given their permission to be killed.  

Shiraishi later disputed his own defence team's version of events, and said he killed without their consent.  

On Tuesday, the judge who delivered the verdict said that "none of the victims agreed to be killed".  

"The defendant was found to be fully responsible," said Naokuni Yano as reported  

One of the victims' father told the court last month that he "will never forgive Shiraishi even if he dies", according to Japanese broadcaster NHK  

"Even now, when I see a woman of my daughter's age, I mistake her for my daughter. This pain will never go away. Give her back to me," he had said.  

The killings stunned Japan, triggering fresh debate about websites where suicide is discussed. At the time the government indicated it may introduce new regulations.  

The murders also prompted a change by Twitter, which amended its rules to state users should not "promote or encourage suicide or self-harm".

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