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Video appears to show Kyoto arson suspect near anime HQ on day before attack

Security footage shows a man believed to be suspect Shinji Aoba pushing a handcart on a street near the head office of Kyoto Animation Co. in the city of Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, on July 17, 2019. (Photo from a security camera)

UJI, Kyoto -- Security footage has emerged apparently showing the suspect in an arson attack on a Kyoto animation studio that left 34 dead pushing a handcart near the head office of the company here in western Japan on the day before the tragedy.

Kyoto Prefectural Police is investigating the footage and suspects that Shinji Aoba came to the prefecture a few days prior to the attack to make preliminary inspections of not only the 1st Studio, where he allegedly carried out the arson, but also other related places including the head office of Kyoto Animation Co. and another Kyoto Animation studio.

The head office in the city of Uji is located a little over 1 kilometer away from the 1st Studio in Kyoto's Fushimi Ward.

The 41-year-old suspect, who has been hospitalized with severe burns, faces arrest on suspicion of arson and murder as soon as he recovers from his injuries.

A man believed to be Aoba was captured by a security camera near the head office at around 2:30 p.m. on July 17. He was pushing a handcart while wearing a red T-shirt, jeans and carrying a backpack. It appears that boxes believed to hold gasoline containers and a bucket were on the handcart.

The man was walking from the direction of Kowata Station on the Keihan Uji Line, near where Kyoto Animation Co.'s 2nd Studio is located, toward Kohata Station on the JR Nara Line, where the company's head office is situated. There is a possibility that Aoba inspected the No. 2 Studio and then moved to the head office to check conditions there. The distance between the two buildings is only about 300 meters.

Police believe that Aoba entered the No. 1 Studio from the entrance and quickly poured gasoline around the area and ignited it. According to investigators, he arrived in Kyoto Prefecture from the city of Saitama near Tokyo, where he lived, a few days before the attack. Security camera footage has confirmed that Aoba bought the gasoline containers, handcart and knives at a home improvement store in Uji. It is believed that the suspect had previously checked out the site as multiple local residents earlier caught him sleeping in a park and loitering around the 1st Studio.

According to police, Aoba said that he had carried out the attack because Kyoto Animation Co. had stolen his novel. However, the company had not received any applications from him when the company solicited works, and no connection between Aoba and the firm has been established.

The prefectural police suspects that Aoba held a baseless grudge against the company and carefully made preliminary inspections to attack it.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka and Satoshi Fukutomi, Kyoto Bureau, and Tatsuki Noda, Osaka City News Department)

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