Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Cannibal Celebrity: Issei Sagawa

Sagawa Strikes

While studying at the Censier Institute in Paris in 1981, Sagawa spotted another tall, beautiful northern European woman woman, Renee Hartevelt. He says that when he sat next to her in a class, he fell instantly in love and could not stop thinking about the white skin of her arms. She was the perfect woman for what he wanted to do, but this time he had to be more careful. He had to be ready.

Renee Hartevelt
Renee Hartevelt

Renee was 25, blonde, and independent. She spoke three languages and had a bright future, with the aim of getting a Ph.D. in French literature. Sagawa asked her to teach him German, and since his father was quite wealthy he could pay her well. She accepted.

According to him, she liked his obvious intelligence and ability to discuss everything from Impressionist paintings to Shakespeare to European literature. He wrote her love letters and invited her to concerts and exhibits. He was small, feminine, and walked with a limp, yet she often went with him and invited him to her apartment for tea. They even danced together, allowing Sagawa a more physical sense of his fantasies. He found these Nordic women overpowering, and even as he claimed he loved them, he wanted to posses and destroy them.

One day he invited Renee over to his apartment for dinner. He asked her to read a poem by his favorite German expressionist, which she did. After she left, he smelled and licked the place where she had sat and vowed that he would eat her — that would allow him to possess her forever.

Soon he asked her to come over again for dinner. He had a cassette recorder, he said, and he wanted to record her reading of the poem. She accepted for the evening of June 11, 1981, and Sagawa prepared himself to act out his ultimate fantasy.

Sagawa's apartment in France
Sagawa's apartment in France

Upon arriving in Paris, he had purchased a .22-caliber rifle "for self-protection." He had it ready when Renee arrived. He seated her on the floor, Japanese-style, to drink tea. Into her drink, he put some whiskey to make her more pliant. They talked for a while as Sagawa waited for the whiskey to have its effect. Then he told Renee that he loved her and wanted to take her to bed.

She resisted him. She found him engaging but not sexually attractive. She wanted only to be his friend.

Sagawa nodded. He then got up to get the book of poetry, while Renee sat on a chair. Sagawa handed the poem to Renee to read and started the recorder.

While Renee recited the poem in her native language, Sagawa came up behind her with his rifle and shot her in the back of the neck. She fell off the chair. He continued to talk to her but she failed to answer. He was surprised by how quiet it was. Then he noticed the amount of blood that flowed out of her wound. At first, he attempted to clean it up, he finally gave up.


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