Shinzo Abe assassination suspect says mother’s religion left him destitute, neglected and angry

·3-min read

The suspect behind former Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe’s assasination claimed he suffered major financial setbacks to the point of bankruptcy because his mother donationed huge sums to the controversial Unification Church.

Tetsuya Yamagami, presently in detention for his mental evaluation, has said in a letter and tweets believed to be made by him, that his mother made donations worth thousands of dollars to the institution during his teenage years — an experience that completely jeopardised his entire life.

“After my mother joined the church (in the 1990s), my entire teenage years were gone, with some 100 million yen [£617,400] wasted,” Mr Yamagami wrote in a typed letter.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say my experience during that time has kept distorting my entire life,” he said.

The letter was sent by Mr Yamagami to a blogger in western Japan before Abe’s assasination in Nara and a draft of the letter was found in a computer confiscated from his single-room apartment, police officials said.

“Though I feel bitter, Abe is not my true enemy. He is only one of the Unification Church’s most influential sympathisers,” he wrote.

The church is said to have deep ties with Japan’s ruling party lawmakers and even with Abe himself, who had praised its emphasis on family values.

“I’ve already lost the mental space to think about political meanings or the consequences Abe’s death will bring,” Mr Yamagami had further stated.

He was four years old when his father, who worked as an executive of a company founded by the suspect’s grandfather, died by suicide.

A screen grab shows a man believed to be Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect of shooting former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, behind Abe (REUTERS)
A screen grab shows a man believed to be Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect of shooting former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, behind Abe (REUTERS)

His mother had joined the Unification Church following this and made donations that led the family to bankruptcy due to which Mr Yamagami could not attend college.

His brother also died by suicide later.

Mr Yamagami had tried killing himself in 2005, but his mother did not return from South Korea where the church is located at the time, his uncle said.

He had a three-year stint in the country’s navy and was recently employed as a factory worker.

Mr Yamagami’s mother donated 60m yen (£372,037) to the church within months of joining, his uncle has claimed in media interviews. She also sold company property worth 40m yen (£247,529) after the death of her husband in 2002, leaving the family with no money.

The uncle added that he stopped assisting Mr Yamagami’s mother and stopped giving money for food and school to her children because she was diverting the money to church instead of fulfilling her children’s basic needs.

When Mr Yamagami shot dead Abe, his mother reportedly told prosecutors she was sorry for causing trouble to the church over her son’s alleged crime.

She has remained a follower of the controversial church.

The 41-year-old suspect, who apparently tweeted under the handle “Silent Hill 333”, had also documented his plight, political beliefs and the impact of having a Church-fanatic mother on social media.

He said his grandfather blamed his mother for the family’s abject condition and had even attempted to kill her.

“What’s most hopeless is that my grandfather was right. But I wanted to believe my mother,” he had said in a December 2019 tweet.

The Unification Church, founded in South Korea, has faced strong allegations for unethically recruiting people and brainwashing them into making huge donations for decades, since the 1980s.

Abe was shot dead in western Japan’s Nara city during a campaign speech on 8 July.

Mr Yamagami was taken into custody soon after the attack. He had allegedly used a homemade gun.

Several Japanese citizens have expressed their sympathy with Mr Yamagami and have sought for prosecutorial leniency for him. There have also been suggestions of sending care packages to his detention centre to cheer him up, reported the Associated Press.