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Kyoto arson suspect scoped out studios, visited anime-related spots: police reports

A man who appears to be suspect Shinji Aoba is seen near JR Uji Station, Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, in footage captured by a security camera, in this image obtained by Kazuki Mogami on July 28, 2019.

KYOTO -- The suspect in the arson attack on Kyoto Animation Co.'s 1st Studio in Fushimi Ward was filmed by security cameras in the days before the incident as he visited locations near to the studio associated with its production "Sound! Euphonium," it has emerged.

Shinji Aoba, 41, was seen on footage from multiple cameras in the area near to JR Uji Station, which is considered a "pilgrimage" spot for fans of the show.

According to investigators, all of the locations he stopped at had some connection with Kyoto Animation. Kyoto Prefectural Police say their focus is to uncover the suspect's motive for his alleged crimes.

Aoba, a resident of the city of Saitama, north of Tokyo, is said to have made the several hundred kilometer journey to Kyoto by shinkansen bullet train on July 15, three days before the fire. Police say he appeared to make a preparatory trip to Uji, where Kyoto Animation is based, on the same day.

A man who appears to be suspect Shinji Aoba is seen pushing a cart some 500 meters north of a hardware store he is said to have purchased the goods from, in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, in this image obtained by Aoi Hanazawa on July 28, 2019.

Investigators said that Aoba was seen moving around areas near the station by multiple security cameras. The station and surrounding areas make up the setting for "Sound! Euphonium" and real-life local businesses such as restaurants and convenience stores also appear in the show.

Police say that Aoba was also seen in the vicinities of the Kyoto Animation's head office, its 1st and 2nd studios, and an anime merchandise store.

When he was taken into custody by police, Aoba reportedly wasn't carrying a smartphone or map. Police say it is possible that he obtained information regarding the company's addresses and the area's connection with its works ahead of the incident.

Additionally, on both July 15 and 16, the suspect is said to have stayed at a hotel in the vicinity of JR Kyoto Station and made return trips to Uji by train. He reportedly purchased items including gas carrying cans and a trolley at a hardware store in Uji on the morning of July 17.

He is then said to have been filmed walking and pushing the trolley by a security camera some 500 meters north of the shop.

The arson took place at around 10:30 a.m. on July 18. Police say they have not confirmed any other traces of Aoba's attendance at locations related to Kyoto Animation in the three days the suspect is said to have spent in the area before the fire.

Though police say the suspect shouted "Die!" while pouring out the gasoline and starting the fire, indicating what is thought to be an attack with murderous intent, his connection to the animation company is still unknown.

The only link mentioned so far is that police have confiscated DVDs of Kyoto Animation's works from the suspect's home following a search of the premises.

It was also revealed that a smartphone found on the property has been impounded. Kyoto Prefectural Police are analyzing his communication records to try and speed up identification of a motive.

Police also announced that the death of the arson attack's 35th victim, a man who passed away in hospital on July 27, was caused by burns to his entire body.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka, Kazuki Mogami, Akiko Hirose, and Aoi Hanazawa, reporting from Kyoto)

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