Certainly, the concept of serial killers and murders becoming a source of profit through entertainment ala Dhamer, Bundy et al is nothing new.

Imagine if you will, instead of some screen writer or media conglomerate getting fatter and richer from films based on the exploits and misfortunes of others, the murderer himself started raking in money and public attention by authoring numerous forms of entertainment based on the same horrific killing carried out by himself.

Mr. Sagawa here, is one man who managed to do just that. As a graduate student living in Paris in 1981 Sagawa, who was described as shy and introverted, invited fellow pupil Renee Hartevelt over to his apartment to record her reading a poem in German. Sagawa sneaked behind Ms. Hartevelt, shot her in the back of the head with a carbine rifle, and proceeded to molest and cannibalize her dead body over the course of two days, all with the assistance of an electric carving knife. His novels based upon the murder he committed, which would become best sellers in Japan, shamelessly describe the mutilation of Ms. Hartevelt. The following excerpt from Sagawa's In the Fog:

It has no smell and no taste. It melts in my mouth like a perfect piece of tuna. I look in her eyes and say: "You are delicious."

I cut her body and lift the meat to my mouth again and again. Then I take a photograph of her white corpse with its deep wounds. I have sex with her body. When I hug her she lets out a breath. I'm frightened, she seems alive. I kiss her and tell her I love her. Then I drag her body to the bathroom. By now I am exhausted, but I cut into her hip and put the meat in a roas(t)ing pan. After it is cooked I sit at the table using her underwear as a napkin. They still smell of her body.

Then I turn on the tape of her reading the German poem and eat. There is not enough taste. I use some salt and some mustard and it is delicious, very high quality meat.

Two days after the murder, possibly motivated by the "large flies" gathering in his apartment, Issei Sagawa packed the remains of Renee Hartevelt in a suit case and attempted to ditch them in a pond. He was caught in the act. Authorities apprehended him while attempting to dispose of a bloody suit case.

Four months later, Sagawa was determined to be insane and was sentenced to four years hospitalization in a French mental institution. Some attribute the limp-wristed punishment of Mr. Sagawa to the high status of his late wealthy father, and certainly the fact that he was allowed to return to his native Japan before completely serving out his sentence doesn't help it at all either.

Upon his return Sagawa, a very talented writer and artist, achieved psuedo-superstardom through books, comics, and films related to cannibalism and the murder of Ms. Hartevelt. Since 1990 he's written over thirteen books, served as a restaurant critic for a Japanese tabloid, starred in bizarre art-erotica films (with cannibalistic themes) and actively paints. The themes of his art tend to be the rear ends of naked caucasian women. Word is his paintings are in high demand.

It's hard to tell if the case of Issei Sagawa is a success story or an ongoing tragedy. His seamless integration into society and his rapid rise to popularity have earned him the moniker of "Gentleman Ghoul". These days, Issei Sagawa, the "Gentleman Ghoul of Japan" currently resides in Tokyo.

A Chronological List of Literary Works by Issei Sagawa
(titles transliterated from Japanese)

Time Line

  • 1981 - Murdered, molested and ate pieces of Dutch student Ms. Rene Hartevelt. Arrested two days later, tried and sentenced to hospitalization four months later.
  • 1984 - Repatriated to Japan after a comfy stay in a French Mental institution
  • 1989 - Enters into the public spotlight with his commentary on Tsutomu Miyazaki, a Japanese paedophile/serial killer/anime fan
  • 1994 - Debuted in "The Desire to be Eaten", a bizarre cannibal-erotica art film
  • 2002 - Showed up at an Anti-War/Anti-America rally in Tokyo, Japan. He carried a sign that read "People are all beautiful. People shouldn't kill people."


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