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Issei Sagawa, The Kobe Cannibal, Eats His Humans One Bite at a Time

Issei Sagawa is known as the Kobe Cannibal who was arrested after he murdered and ate much of his former classmate, Renée Hartevelt, a 25-year-old Dutch student studying abroad in Paris. Although Sagawa admitted to killing and cannibalizing Hartevelt, he remains a free man till this day and is even profiting off his crime by writing many books and appearing on television.

Issei Sagawa was born premature in Kobe on April 26th, 1949. Doctors believed that the child would surely die as he was short, weak, and frail, and could be fit in the palm of a hand. Sagawa developed several life-threatening diseases including enteritis, a disease of the intestines. It was in third grade when Sagawa first had a cannibalistic dream and started developing deviant thoughts towards his classmates.

Sagawa left his home in Tokyo on April 26th, his 28th birthday, to study comparative literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris. He meets Renée Hartevelt who is an accomplished linguist working towards her PH.d. in French Literature.

Issei Sagawa invites Hartevelt over to his apartment to record some German poetry for him (many sources claim Sagawa was paying her to record in German). On June 11, 1981, Sagawa takes a rifle and shoots his guest in the back of the head after she denied his sexual advances. She never saw her murder coming.

He kept Renée Hartevelt’s corpse in his apartment for the remainder of the weekend where he undressed her, raped her, and began fulfilling his cannibalistic desires. Starting with the right butt cheek, Sagawa began to taste his victim soon moving down to the legs of the corpse.

Sagawa sliced off his victim’s nose breast and right hip continuing to eat the flesh and meat “sushi style.”

After several days Renee’s decomposing corpse developed a repugnant stench and Sagawa began deciding how he should get rid of the “bothersome body” (as one newspaper described it).

Issei purchased two large suitcases and first attempted to rid the body by taking a taxi cab to a potential dumpsite, but this plan was thwarted by many on-lookers.

On Sagawa’s second attempt to dump the body he ended up at the Bois de Boulogne, a peaceful lake, but was spotted by many people dinning at a nearby restaurant. Issei was never able to push the two suitcases in the water, opting to run away instead and leaving his problem for local police.

French police apprehended Issei Sagawa four days later and found the evidence of his crime inside his apartment.


In 1983, French doctors claimed that Issei Sagawa was not mentally competent to stand trial and he was placed in the Guiraud Asylum as an “untreatable psychotic.” It is widely believed that Issei’s father, a wealthy businessman and President of Kurt Water Industries, helped his son by providing money and legal assistance. Sagawa was returned to Tokyo and Japanese psychiatrist concluded that he had a personality disorder but did not suffer from the “brain damage” claimed by the French professionals.

Issei Sagawa is a free man still living in Japan and has written twenty books and appeared many television specials and movies. He is profiting off his crime, but claims that he is struggling financially. Vice recently covered his story (below) and sat down with Sagawa for an exclusive interview.

Hosted by
Jon Perry

Hey y'all I'm the main story teller on our podcast episodes. You can suggest stories for me to cover by leaving a comment on any post on this site, which I will see and respond to. If you want to listen and subscribe to the podcast just search Talk Murder To Me in any podcasting app. Thanks for reading, please share!

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