The shocking true story of Issei Sagawa

The shocking true story of Issei Sagawa


Sagawa, a Sorbonne student in the ‘80s, noticed a pretty young Nordic classmate of his and then one day thought, “I wonder if I could eat her.” He went on to entice her to his home, where he killed her, had sex with her corpse, and proceeded to eat her, beginning with her thighs. He wanted to absorb her beauty as he found himself inadequate as a person. Police caught him dumping parts of her body into a nearby lake, and he was found legally insane, though his rich dad tried to fight the case. Sagawa was actually released, and he remains a minor celebrity in Japan.

A shocking true story

On the afternoon of June 13, 1981, a Japanese man named Issei Sagawa walked to the Bois de Boulogne, a park on the outskirts of Paris, carrying two large suitcases.

The contents of those suitcases, to the horror of those in the park, was the dismembered body of a fellow student – a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt, whom Sagawa had shot three days prior and had spent the days since eating various parts of her body.

I killed her to eat her flesh

He was soon arrested. According to reports, Issei uttered, “I killed her to eat her flesh,” when they raided his home, whereupon they found bits of Renne still in his fridge.

Sagawa was declared insane and unfit for trial and was institutionalized in Paris. His incarceration was to be short, however, as the French public soon grew weary of their hard-earned francs going to support this evil woman-eater, and Issei was promptly deported. Herein followed a bizarre and seemingly too convenient set of legal loopholes and psychiatric reports that led doctors in Japan declaring him “sane, but evil.”

The shocking true story of Issei Sagawa

On August 12, 1986, Sagawa checked himself out of Tokyo’s Matsuzawa Psychiatric hospital, and has been a free man ever since.

Instead of fading off into obscurity and keeping a low public profile, Sagawa soaked up all of the attention he received from the media at the time. His sadistic crime made the public eager to learn more about his psyche, and he went on to become an infamous figure in Japanese society. All the while, Hartevelt and her family never received justice for her untimely death.

It began in 1989, when Japanese authorities arrested child killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, and they consulted with Sagawa as though he were a real-life Hannibal Lecter. He gave them insight on the crimes, and gave police advice on the case. This ultimately kept Sagawa in the public eye, and his career took off from here.

The shocking true story of Issei Sagawa

Strange Movie

In the years that followed, Sagawa was employed as a public speaker, wrote 20 detailed books about his crimes and fantasies, freelanced as a food critic, and was even featured in films. In one of the films, titled UNFAITHFUL WIFE: SHAMEFUL TORTURE, he plays a character very much like himself—a sadistic sex fiend.

The film’s director was obviously trying to sensationalize Sagawa’s crimes and somewhat make a mockery of what he had done. What’s worse, it delivered the message that murder wasn’t a big deal—you could snuff out someone’s life, and still be a star!

Sagawa had become so well-known at the time of his crime, the Rolling Stones wrote a song about him titled “Too Much Blood.” Mick Jagger wrote the song in response to the media hype that surrounded Sagawa’s case, and wanted to prompt discussion about anti-violence. But, it only gave Sagawa something to use to his advantage. He attempted to make a comic book version of the song following its release.

Strange interview with a killer

In 2008, Vice profiled the killer with an in-depth interview. In the hard-to-read discussion, Sagawa explained that his desire to eat human flesh began in elementary school, and deepened after seeing Grace Kelly on film. It was her physical appearance—tall, blonde and beautiful—that set a precedent for the type of victim he craved.

Sagawa explained that his desire was purely sexual, and insisted that he never wants to kill anyone. If he could, he would have eaten Hartevelt while she was alive, if she let him.

He explained to the magazine, “It wasn’t like I felt like eating someone every time I was hungry. But you know how you tend to feel a stronger sexual desire when you’ve eaten a full meal? That’s when I would start feeling the urge to eat a girl.”

Sagawa described the number of times he tried killing prostitutes prior to the ultimate killing of his classmate. Unfortunately, Hartevelt’s kindness led to her demise. She was a friendly, beautiful classmate at the University he was attending, and Sagawa began inviting her over to his home, often. He fantasized about killing her every time she was there, and one time he finally pulled the trigger. Sagawa shot her with a rifle, raped her corpse, and feasted on parts of her flesh for days.

His interview with Vice becomes increasingly more disturbing when he goes on to describe, in great detail, cutting up parts of her body and consuming them. He explains what her flesh looked like, exactly how it tasted, and which parts of her were the best, as though it were commonplace.