Arson-murder suspect fueled by ‘disadvantages’The 42-year-old suspect in an arson and mass murder case in Jinju, South Gyeongsang, told police he committed the crime “out of anger” because he had been “disadvantaged” over the past decade.
Authorities have not yet determined whether the suspect, surnamed Ahn, is suffering from mental illness, but multiple sources who claim to know him told the JoongAng Ilbo that he suddenly turned violent and paranoid after being injured while working at a construction site over a decade ago.
Ahn did not elaborate how he has been disadvantaged when reporters showered questions on him Thursday morning as he entered a Jinju court to attend a hearing for his pretrial detention warrant on charges of murder and arson. But Ahn did mention he was disadvantaged at his company and in society, without giving further details.
“Please investigate how I lived in this world so far,” Ahn told reporters. “Please explain it properly. Illegality and corruption is serious so explain it properly. I’ve suffered from disadvantages for 10 years.”
Later that day, the court issued the detention warrant, citing the possibility Ahn may flee.
Ahn faces allegations that he poured gasoline all over the living room of his fourth floor apartment, set fire to a piece of newspaper and hurled it on the inflammable liquid at around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday. His apartment building is 10 stories tall. Ahn then walked down to the second floor, according to police, and stabbed neighbors escaping down the staircase. Five people were killed, including a 12-year-old girl, and five were injured. Ten others were treated for smoke inhalation. The fire was extinguished 20 minutes later by firefighters and Ahn was caught at the scene by police.
Police believe Ahn planned the arson and murder crime for at least several months in light of the fact that he purchased the two knives he used to kill his neighbors about two to three months ago. The knives were 9 inches and 13 inches long. CCTV footage retrieved from Ahn’s neighborhood showed him leaving his apartment at around 12:50 a.m. on Wednesday with a white container, filling it up with gasoline at a nearby gas station and returning home about an hour later.
Police said that Ahn vented his frustration about several issues during questioning, which is why officers think a state of paranoia coupled with an anger issue could’ve triggered his crime. According to police, Ahn said that someone had illegally restructured his apartment and set up a CCTV, that people threw insects and trash at his house and that his neighbors “teamed up” to bully him. On his alleged arson and murder, Ahn told police he was aware he committed “a serious problem,” adding “I want to apologize for anything I did wrong.”
When Police Commissioner General Min Gap-ryong visited a joint mourning altar for the victims on Thursday, the surviving families urged him to investigate why Jinju police ignored their complaints about Ahn so often in the past, saying they’ve reported Ahn’s strange behavior but were ignored. Min responded that he would devise countermeasures after holding discussions with relevant ministries. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon chimed in during a separate meeting with government officials, saying police have “a lot of work” to do after the arson and murders.
According to several people who talked with the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday, Ahn’s abusive and erratic behavior goes back to when he was injured at a construction site more than a decade ago. It is not clear when that accident occurred or what happened, but Ahn’s acquaintances, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the suspect was “pure-hearted” and “normal” up until his early 20s.
In 2010, when Ahn was in his early 30s, he was sent to a mental hospital in Gongju, South Chungcheong, after assaulting someone. After that, he allegedly started punching people for no reason, including his family, and was taken into police custody numerous times.
Ahn started living alone in Jinju from October 2011 and was unemployed. That November, the government designated Ahn as a basic livelihood subsidy recipient due to a mental illness. In December 2015, he moved to his current home in Jinju. He often got into arguments with his neighbors and was once booked for property damage.
BY SHIN JIN-HO, KIM YOON-HO, NAMGUNG MIN AND LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]