The heads of nine people have been found in an apartment in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on Oct. 31 arrested the male resident of the apartment, police said.
Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, the arrested man whose occupation is unknown, stands accused of corpse abandonment. He has reportedly admitted to the allegations against him, telling police, "I killed them and tried to destroy the evidence." The MPD has set up a special investigative task force and is currently working to identify the remains.
According to investigators, the heads of nine people -- believed to be those of eight women and one man -- were placed in seven of the eight coolers and toolboxes found inside the apartment. Since some of the remains have already decomposed, police will use DNA testing and other methods to identify them.
The discovery of the remains came after two of the heads were initially found in a cooler placed at the entrance of the apartment on the afternoon of Oct. 30 during a police search for a 23-year-old woman from the Tokyo suburban city of Hachioji. The woman has been missing since around Oct. 24. The MPD's Takao Police Station believes one of the heads belongs to the missing woman.
Shiraishi is specifically accused of destroying the body of an unidentified victim and abandoning their remains in a cooler between Aug. 22 and Oct. 30. Sand for a cat litter box was put inside the cooler.
"I dismembered the corpses in my bathroom and dumped the flesh and internal organs as trash," the suspect was quoted as telling police. A saw was also confiscated from inside the apartment on the second floor of a two-story complex.
The 23-year-old missing woman had hinted at her desire to take her own life on social media, posting a tweet saying, "I'm looking for someone who would die with me," and investigators believe she became acquainted with the suspect via the internet.
"I met her for the first time at the time of the incident," Shiraishi was quoted as telling investigators. He has admitted to murdering her.
According to the MPD, the woman had been attending a welfare facility, and an employee of the facility had confirmed she was safe when they visited her home on Oct. 21. However, her brother reported to the Takao Police Station on the evening of Oct. 24 that the woman had gone missing.
Security camera footage had caught the woman taking a train at JR Hachioji Station and then walking with a man appearing to be the suspect at Sobudai-mae Station on the Odakyu Line near his home on Oct. 23.
MPD investigators discovered the coolers and other boxes containing the remains inside the apartment upon questioning Shiraishi at his residence on the afternoon of Oct. 30.
The apartment is located in a residential area about 500 meters from Sobudai-mae Station, and is close to U.S. forces' Camp Zama and the Ground Self-Defense Force's Zama post.
"It's a quiet residential area here, with a day care center nearby. I can't believe the bodies were discovered in an area like this," said a 41-year-old female resident in the neighborhood.
According to local residents, Shiraishi moved into the apartment two months ago from his parents' home about 2.5 kilometers away, also in Zama. Prior to his relocation, his father had reportedly contacted a real estate agency, saying, "I want my son to move in right away."