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Suspect in Abe's shooting showed mixed emotions, affection toward mom on social media

Tetsuya Yamagami, the man accused of fatally shooting former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leaves a police station to be sent to the prosecutor's office, in the city of Nara on July 10, 2022. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)
A post by a Twitter account, which is thought to belong to Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect in the July 8 assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is seen in this partially modified image.

A social media account thought to belong to the suspect in the July 8 fatal attack on former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe posted content suggesting that he had mixed feelings including affection toward his mother, who he told investigators caused his family to fall apart due to her obsession with a religious group.

    On Twitter, posts that appear to have been made by Tetsuya Yamagami, the 41-year-old man who has been sent to prosecutors on suspicion of murder over Abe's assassination during a stump speech in the city of Nara, expressed strong resentment against the religious group, as well as his feelings toward his 69-year-old mother. It is believed that the suspect's mother, who repeatedly made huge donations as a follower of the group, is a key figure in helping unravel the background of the incident. Investigative sources say that while Yamagami resents his mother, he reportedly did not show signs of having had any intention to kill her.

    According to a relative, Yamagami's mother joined the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, commonly known by its former name the Unification Church, about 30 years ago when he was in elementary school. She went bankrupt after donating a total of around 100 million yen (about $720,000) to the church. The suspect explained to investigators, "Since my teen years, I've resented the group that made a mess of my family." He has also made a statement to the effect that he shot Abe because he thought the former prime minister promoted the religious group across Japan.

    The Twitter handle was mentioned in a letter he sent to a 71-year-old resident of Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, from the city of Okayama, shortly before the incident. It is an anonymous account, and the earliest post was dated Oct. 13, 2019. While the account expressed resentment against the religious group, there were also a considerable number of family-related posts.

    A post by a Twitter account, which is thought to belong to Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect in the July 8 assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is seen in this partially modified image.

    "My mother's heart was always with my brother." Such an entry was made in December 2019. According to a relative, the suspect's father took his own life when Yamagami was 4 years old. Yamagami's brother, who was a year older, was blind in his right eye due to cancer when he was a child. The social media posts touched upon such a family environment, and described how his mother always worried about his brother, adding, "I worked hard. For my mother."

    Other posts included "Why is my mother trying to make me into a living sacrifice for my brother," and "I wanted to believe in my mother," and showed the inner feelings of a child yearning for his mother.

    The account also posted harsh comments. In an April 2021 post, the user referred to an article about the mother of a death row convict behind a series of murders and attacks, and said, "I get this because this feeling is similar to what I have toward my mother." There were also comments suggesting he gave up on his mother, including, "In words, she says she's worried and also shows tears, but in reality, she's completely indifferent," and "You'll only get miserable even if you hope for love from such a human being."

    According to investigative sources, Yamagami had not met his mother for a long time prior to the incident, and the two had been out of touch. Though investigations have found that he had hard feelings toward his mother as he believed she caused the family to fall apart, it reportedly seems that he never directed his hostility toward his mother.

    Hisashi Sonoda, professor emeritus at Konan University specializing in criminal law, speculates that "Yamagami believed that his mother was a victim, just like him, while he was thinking that his entire family had been torn to pieces by the (religious) group." He also touched on the string of posts about his family environment and mother, and commented, "He may have tried to digest his mental pain by viewing himself objectively through writing. It can be thought that it was precisely because he was lonely without anyone to turn to that he recorded everything he feels."

    According to the religious group, it was unable to contact the mother from 2009 to around 2017. However, she had attended the group's events about once a month for the past six months or so. Sources said that following the incident, the Nara District Public Prosecutors Office has been asking the mother questions.

    (Japanese original by Yuhi Yoshikawa and Mizuki Hayashi, Nara Bureau, Hidenori Kitamura, Tokyo City News Department)

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