In Brief

Kyoto Animation fire started by ‘disgruntled writer’

Man suspected of starting blaze that killed 33 people says studio ‘stole his novel’

Police are investigating reports that the arson attack on a renowned Japanese animation studio in which 33 people died could have been carried out by a disgruntled writer.

A 41-year-old man with serious burns was arrested near the scene of the fire, which broke out on Thursday morning at the Kyoto Animation studio in the city’s historic Fushimi district.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that the man told police he started the fire “because the company stole his novel”. 

Kyodo News reports that police have identified the suspect as Shinji Aoba. Investigators have yet to interview Aoba, who was given anaesthetic when he was treated for his injuries in hospital.

Aoba’s occupation is unknown, but Kyoto Animation has confirmed that he had never been employed by the studio.

A witness who saw the arrest told Kyodo News the suspect  was “talking angrily” to police and “sounded [like] he had a grudge against Kyoto Animation”.

Although less famous worldwide than Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation, also known as KyoAni, “has recently become one of the top-grossing studios” in Japan, says Channel News Asia.

Its president, Hideaki Hatta, said that the studio had previously been a target of threats, telling reporters: “There have been emails with death threats.”

The fire is the deadliest in Japan since 2001, which killed 44 people at a Tokyo mahjong parlour. 

Firefighters have recovered 33 bodies from the studio so far, most of them employees of the company.

Twenty of the victims were found crammed in a narrow stairway leading to the roof of the building, the Asahi Shimbun reports. All are believed to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Another 36 people, including the alleged perpetrator, were injured. As the fire spread rapidly through the building, “several people jumped out of the second and third floor windows and suffered bone fractures”, reports CNN.

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