Accused in Kyoto Animation arson case claimed studio 'stole' his idea for novel

A court has heard evidence that a man accused of a deadly arson attack at an animation studio in Kyoto City shouted at a police officer who subdued him that the studio had stolen his idea for a novel.

Aoba Shinji is accused of pouring gasoline into the Kyoto Animation studio and setting it on fire in July 2019. The resulting blaze claimed the lives of 36 employees and injured 32 others. Aoba was apprehended near the building.

His trial, involving lay judges, began at the Kyoto District Court on Tuesday.

The 45-year-old defendant admitted to the charges against him, but his lawyers, who are contesting his legal responsibility, entered a not-guilty plea.

On Wednesday, Aoba entered the courtroom in a wheelchair, wearing a blue jacket and a face mask.

The court heard a recording of an exchange between the defendant and a police officer immediately after the attack.

The officer asks, "Why did you do this?" Aoba shouts back, "stolen" and "novel," and then adds, "You know it all. They stole everything."

In the recording, he correctly answers questions about his name, date of birth, but only says "Saitama" when asked where he lived. When the police ask where he got the gasoline and stove lighter, he says he got the gasoline at a gas station and bought the lighter at a home supply shop.

The defendant stared at the monitor throughout the roughly three-minute recording. Some observers in the gallery wept.

Prosecutors claim Aoba was convinced that the studio stole his idea for a novel, and was seeking revenge.