The Creepy True Story Of Japan’s Twitter Serial Killer

The Creepy True Story Of Japan’s Twitter Serial Killer

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You Wouldn’t Think It, But This Is The Scariest Twitter Page Of All Time

In October 2017, Aiko Tamura went missing from where she was living outside of Tokyo. Her brother filed a report with the police and followed a few leads of his own without success. Then he looked at her Twitter account and saw she’d been in touch with someone he didn’t recognize. The Twitter user’s page looked like this:

If your first reaction on seeing that is «Ew, an anime profile pic, major red flag,» that’s unfair. That’s just a drawing of the user, Takahiro Shiraishi, and this is the message pinned to the top of the page:

«People are bullied all the time at school and work,» wrote Shiraishi. «And when you can’t handle the places you go every day and the people there, that’ll push you further and further mentally. I think lots of people are suffering and attempting suicide, even if the news isn’t covering it. I want to help these people. #suicide»

Seems like a positive message, one that might have helped Aiko, who had been depressed. The rest of the page mostly just retweets cute animals, but here’s one more tweet from Shiraishi himself:

«Is briquette suicide easy?» he asks. «People often ask me, but it’s hard to say for sure. People imagine dying in their sleep, but that might not happen, thanks to nausea and carbon monoxide poisoning. Your brain might get damaged seriously, though. And permanently.»

That one might confuse you if you’ve never heard of charcoal-burning suicide, but that’s an established suicide method that’s become a lot more common in the last couple decades in Japan. The idea is to burn charcoal in an enclosed space to produce enough carbon monoxide to kill oneself painlessly. By pointing out that this method may fail but may leave you permanently brain-damaged, Shiraishi seems to advise suicidal people not to kill themselves after all. 

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Here’s a closer look at that profile pic:

The avatar wears a noose, has rope marks on his neck, and has cut his wrist. «I want to spread the knowledge of hanging myself,» he says, «I want to help those who are really struggling. Please feel free to contact me via DM.» The Twitter handle is «@hangingpro,» and the name translates as «the hangman,» or possibly «the hanging man.»

Giving Shiraishi the benefit of the doubt, this is someone who tried hanging himself and is now using social media to share his story, to help other people decide against suicide. But Aiko’s brother realized, correctly, that the messages could also mean something very different. 

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Takahiro Shiraishi Used Twitter To Lure In Suicidal Victims

Aiko’s mother had died the previous June. The 23-year-old moved into a group home in a suburb of Tokyo, and she became depressed. She tweeted, «I’m looking for someone who will die with me.» Shiraishi DM’d her, saying, «Let’s die together.» 

Shiraishi’s account has now been suspended. If you know anyone suspended by Twitter, they likely strongly object to how the service treated them, but we would have to say Shiraishi’s ranks among Twitter’s more justified suspensions. When the full details of his murders became known, Twitter announced that there is no way to catch people like Shiraishi in real time, but they added a new rule (not in response to the case, they claimed): «You may not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm.»

Hunting through Twitter’s archives, it’s still possible to see a few people who communicated with The Hanged Man. «Don’t get hit by a car,» offered one user, who’s still active today. Another user only posted on one day in October 2017. «16 years old. I want to die soon,» says her profile, and she replies to Shiraishi about failing to hang herself. She might be one of his victims. Or maybe this is another of his alt accounts. 

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