Japanese man charged with murder over 2019 arson
Published: Dec 16, 2020 05:08 PM

A woman prays at an altar set up near the burnt-out studio of Kyoto Animation Company, known as KyoAni, in the western Japanese city of Kyoto on Monday, one month after an arson attack killed 35 people. Photo: VCG

Japanese prosecutors on Wednesday charged a man with murder over the 2019 arson attack on Kyoto Animation that killed 36 people, local media said, the country's deadliest violent crime in decades.

Shinji Aoba, 42, was detained in the aftermath of the July 2019 attack, but has been hospitalized since then with severe burns sustained in the incident, and reportedly only regained consciousness in August 2020.

There were no immediate details on the full extent of the charges against Aoba, who was only formally placed under arrest in May.

More than 30 people were also injured in the attack, in which Aoba is accused of breaking into the studio's building, spreading gasoline around the ground floor and setting it alight. Aoba has reportedly confessed to the arson, and is said to have shouted "drop dead" before starting the fire.

There have been claims that he accused the studio of stealing his work, which Kyoto Animation has denied doing.

Many of those killed in the blaze were young, including a 21-year-old woman.

Parents of some of the victims told local media in May when Aoba was charged that they were still suffering the devastating loss of their loved ones.

The attack sent shock waves through the anime industry and its fans in Japan and around the world.

"These are people who carry the Japanese animation industry on their shoulders," Kyoto Animation's President Hideaki Hatta told reporters at the time.

"It's heartbreaking. Japanese jewels were lost."