The Cannibal that Walked Free

the cannibal that walked free

This documentary examines the remarkable case of Issei Sagawa –the self-confessed ‘godfather of cannibals’ who walked free from prison and became a minor celebrity, despite having killed and eaten a young woman in the early 1980s.

Describing himself as ‘weak, ugly and small’, Issei Sagawa was obsessed with European girls. In 1981, he was studying literature at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris and became enamoured with a beautiful Dutch student called Renée Hartevelt.

On 11th June, Sagawa invited Hartevelt to his room to study, but realised that his desire for her was greater than just sexual attraction. As Hartevelt sat on his bed, Sagawa realised that he wanted to eat her. In his own account of his crime, Sagawa was to later write: “I want to eat her. If I do, she will be mine forever.” He shot the girl in the neck, then proceeded to eat parts of her body in order to “absorb her energy.”

In subsequent interviews, Sagawa has described human fat as “corn-coloured” and added that the meat tastes “soft and odourless”. However, the most remarkable thing about Sagawa’s story is not the heinous nature of his crime, but rather the fact that he was to walk free.

Five days after he murdered Renée Hartevelt, Sagawa was arrested by the French police, but was deemed legally insane and unfit to stand trial. Instead, he was deported to Japan and consigned to a mental institution. However, he was allowed to check himself out just 15 months later, and is now a free man.

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