Kyoto Animation fire: Police name suspect after studio blaze

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Japanese police have named the man suspected of carrying out a deadly arson attack on an animation studio.

Shinji Aoba is in police custody in hospital and is being treated for burns before he can be questioned.

The fire swept through Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) on Thursday, claiming at least 33 lives and injuring many in one of Japan’s worst mass killings in years.

People who witnessed Shinji Aoba’s arrest said they heard him complaining that the company had stolen his ideas.

Police say the attacker entered the building and splashed flammable liquid from a bucket before setting it alight, and shouted: “Die!”

In the wake of the attack, dozens of people have gathered outside the premises of the studio, laying flowers and offering prayers.

A crowdfunding campaign has also raised more than $1.3m (£1.04m) to assist victims and their families.

KyoAni produces films and graphic novels, and is well regarded by fans for the quality of its productions.

What do we know about the suspect?

Police detained Shinji Aoba on suspicion of setting fire to the building.

The BBC’s Tokyo Correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says CCTV footage from a nearby petrol station appears to show him filling up two containers with petrol shortly before the incident.

Investigators inspect the scene of the fire at Kyoto Animation
Image captionSince the fire was put out, investigators have been inspecting the scene for evidence

Mr Aoba allegedly accused the animation studio of plagiarising his novel. However, he is still recovering from injuries in hospital and has not been formally interviewed about his motive.

Public broadcaster NHK reports that he has a criminal record and was previously jailed for stealing money from a convenience store.

Kyoto Animation’s president has said he recently received threatening letters, but has no idea if they were connected to the attack.

What happened?

The fire broke out at the three-storey building at about 10:30 local time (01:35 GMT) on Thursday.

Eyewitnesses described a loud explosion followed by the blaze, which people jumped out of windows to escape from.

“It was like I was looking at hell,” a local woman told Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Residents pray for victims of a fire which hit the Kyoto Animation company studio
Image captionAuthorities said most of the victims died whilst trying to escape to the building’s roof

Around 70 people were in the building when the fire started, and some 36 people have reportedly been taken to hospital.

Authorities said most of the victims were found piled up on a stairway leading from the building’s third floor up to the roof, where they collapsed trying to escape.

Kyodo news agency said firefighters had found the door to the roof was shut, leaving people trapped inside.

A Kyoto fire official also told Reuters news agency that the building did not have any sprinklers or indoor fire hydrants – but did not need them to comply with Japan’s fire code.

Momoko Higuchi, a Tokyo-based architect, told Reuters that the blaze was probably made worse by the building’s three-storey spiral staircase, which would have “[acted]as a chimney.”

“Because the fire was with petrol, the effect was like a bomb,” Mr Higuchi added.

The fire has since been put out, and police are searching the site for evidence in their investigation. Knives have also reportedly been found at the scene.

In response to the incident, the studio has cancelled screenings for the trailer of its latest film, a spin-off of the popular swimming anime series Free. It has also delayed a collaboration with Keihan Main Line, a railway service between Kyoto and Osaka.

Another Japanese animation studio, David Production, has postponed the broadcast of its latest episode of Fire Force. The animated series centres on a group of firefighters who have the ability to manipulate fire.

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