Suspect in Osaka clinic fire may have copied animation studio arson

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OSAKA  — The suspect in a fatal fire at a mental health clinic in Osaka last week might have intended to copy a deadly 2019 arson at an animation studio in Kyoto, which also involved a purchase of gasoline before the incident, investigative sources said Dec. 21.

Morio Tanimoto had left in his presumed living quarters in Osaka’s Nishiyodogawa Ward a newspaper page with reporting on the animation studio fire that claimed 36 lives, prompting police to believe he might have decided to use a similar method after reading the article, the sources said.

According to the sources, a small fire broke out in the man’s living space about 30 minutes before the Osaka clinic fire, with police suspecting he may have tried to ignite some gasoline ahead of the planned arson attack.

It was found that the suspect, a 61-year-old patient at the clinic, purchased around 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of gasoline in late November, leading police to think he had a strong intent to kill people, the sources said.

Tanimoto is also believed to have attempted to seal the clinic’s emergency exit with adhesive tape from the outside a day before to prevent people from escaping, other investigative sources said.

Police believe Tanimoto started the fire on the fourth floor of the building in the western Japan city’s Kita Ward on Dec. 17, an incident that killed 24 people.

Of the 24 victims who died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, 21 have been identified including the clinic’s director, Kotaro Nishizawa, 49, the police said.

Tanimoto remains in serious condition due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Nishizawa told his wife he had discovered tape on the door leading to the fire escape the day before the incident and removed it, according to the sources.

Security camera footage taken in the psychosomatic and psychiatric clinic showed the fire broke out around one to two minutes after Tanimoto’s arrival.

Police suspect he went to the clinic under the guise of receiving a medical examination.

The camera footage showed the suspect placing a paper bag in front of the clinic’s reception area. The suspect then crouched by the bag and moved his hand, and fire was seen quickly rising to the ceiling. A burned cigarette lighter was found where the fire apparently started.

As for the purchase of gasoline, Tanimoto apparently claimed he was going to use it for his motorcycle.

He showed identification upon purchase because it is required to buy gasoline by the container.

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