Japanese ‘serial killer’ said to be quiet child turned sex trade scout

Takahiro Shiraishi, the Japanese man who has reportedly confessed to murdering and hacking up nine young people in his Tokyo bathroom, was said to be a quiet schoolboy who would grow up to work on the fringes of the sex industry and become a suspected serial killer.

Pictures of the 27-year-old show an ordinary-looking man with neat, dark hair and glasses, who lived in a nondescript flat on a quiet residential street in one of Tokyo’s endless sprawling suburbs.

But on the morning of Halloween, police uncovered a grisly house of horrors behind Shiraishi’s front door: nine dismembered bodies with as many as 240 bone parts stashed in coolers and tool boxes, sprinkled with cat litter in a bid to hide the evidence.

People who lived in the neighborhood remembered the young Shiraishi as a “quiet child who was able to socialise with neighbours”.

At school, his grades were far from stellar but he was an attentive pupil, who “didn’t especially stand out but was not a gloomy character either”, according to a former classmate cited in the Asahi Shimbun.

He enjoyed athletics and baseball and was “a good listener rather than someone who would speak about himself”, another school contemporary told a local Tokyo paper.

One person claiming to be a former schoolmate took to Twitter saying he was so “normal, inconspicuous and low-profile” that most classmates would not even recognise him when news of his alleged crimes broke.

But the warning signs were perhaps there as one elementary-school contemporary told the private Fuji TV network that Shiraishi and his friends enjoyed choking each other for “fun”.

“He once passed out while playing the choking game,” the man, who did not wish to be identified, told the show.

The Mainichi Shimbun has reported that two of the bodies showed signs of strangulation, one had broken neck bones and another had bleeding patterns typically associated with choking.

‘Watch out!’

After graduating from high school in 2009, Shiraishi got a full-time job at a supermarket but quit just over two years later.

At that point, he began to work as a scout for sex parlours in Kabukicho, Tokyo’s biggest red-light district, seeking to lure young women into working in the clubs there.

In February, he was arrested and eventually handed a suspended jail sentence for recruiting a young woman for a sex shop in the full knowledge that she would be pressed into prostitution.

Several people tweeted about a “creepy scout”, with one person apparently employed in the same business as the suspect posting a photo of him with the caption: “Watch out for this scout.”

Shiraishi appeared to have a close relationship with his father, a designer of automobile parts, after his mother and younger sister left to live closer to the girl’s school in central Tokyo.

And a woman who said she was in a relationship with him until summer 2016 described him as a “gentle character” who was “never angry with women.”

“When I told him that I wanted to break up, he hugged me and said something like ‘Don’t go’,” the women told Fuji TV.

‘Professional hangman’

Things started going downhill for Shiraishi around June this year when he is reported to have told his father: “I don’t know why I’m alive.”

On August 22, he moved into the one-room apartment in Zama, a southwestern suburb of Tokyo, that would become the apparent scene of multiple murders.

He set up several Twitter accounts, advertising himself as a “professional hangman” and contacting young women who said they had suicidal tendencies.

He is reported to have told investigators that he killed his victims “as soon as he met them” and then “did some work on the bodies” to cover up his alleged crimes.

According to the Japan Times, he told police that the first time he dismembered a body, it took him three days but that “from the second person, I was able to do it within a day.”

Several media report the police found scissors, knives, a saw and woodwork tools in his flat.

One former hostess said on Twitter she had a lucky escape after her parlour turned down Shiraishi, who wanted to take her on a “date”.

“The parlour politely declined it but if it hadn’t, I would have been dead, wouldn’t I? I get chills,” tweeted the woman.

Shahbaz Sharif chosen as PM candidate in London meeting

LAHORE: The London meeting of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz(PML-N) top leadership has decided to put forward Shahbaz Sharif as prime ministerial candidate after the 2018 elections if party president Nawaz Sharif remains ineligible to run for office.

The meeting, held on Monday, was presided over by Nawaz Sharif and attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal.

The decision “coincided” with a full-page result of a “national opinion survey” published in an Urdu daily in which 60 per cent of respondents declared Shahbaz Sharif as the best choice for the prime ministerial job. According to the survey, conducted by a little known US institute Global Strategic Partner in September, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan was the choice of 47pc of total 4,540 respondents from across the country.

Editorial: The PML-N of today is a nepotistic disgrace

A senior PML-N leader told Dawn here on Tuesday that the decision to pitch the Punjab chief minister for the office had been taken in view of the fact that disqualification of the elder Sharif under the Supreme Court orders in the Panama Papers case might not be overturned by the vote due after about nine months.

The PML-N official, considered close to the Punjab chief minister, said Shahbaz Sharif had always been the party’s candidate for the office of prime minister after his brother’s ouster.

Saad Rafique says ‘Hamza and Maryam are not our leaders’

Asked if the younger Sharif’s name could be withdrawn like in the recent past when he had been publicly nominated by none other than the disqualified prime minister himself for this and the office of party president only to change the decisions later, the official, requesting not to be named, said that earlier plans of elevating the chief minister to the federal role had to be reverted when the decision led to the emergence of a number of claimants to the office of the provincial chief executive.

According to him, at least three members of the Punjab cabinet were among the claimants and appointing anyone of them or any “junior” to the office could have created a rift in the party in its stronghold at a time when it needed unity and harmony the most.

He rejected a perception that there were any two views in the party on the nomination of Shahbaz Sharif for the greater role or that the chief minister lacked the ability to take along all shades of opinion.

The official saw the same claimants behind reports of division in the party on the issue.

‘Minus-one’ formula

A day after the top-level meeting declared that the PML-N would never accept a “minus-one” formula, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said in London on Tuesday that no individual could decide either to “plus or minus” anyone.

Mr Sharif, who had announced that he would return to Pakistan on Nov 2 to appear before an accountability court the next day, was asked by the media to comment on the meeting with PM Abbasi and Shahbaz Sharif. His comments were also sought on the much-talked about “minus-one” formula.

“As far as ‘minus one or plus one’ is concerned…such decisions are taken only by the people of Pakistan…these are not the decision of any individual or someone else,” he said.

Only on Monday, Mr Sharif himself dismissed rumours of internal party rifts and insisted that there was no “minus-Nawaz” formula in play.

PM Abbasi and CM Sharif also shared similar views with the media following the high-level meeting.

Three Killed and Six Injured in Taxila.

TAXILA: Three people were killed and six injured in different accidents in Attock and Taxila on Wednesday.

A passenger on board a van was killed and six were injured when the vehicle rammed into a truck parked along the side of GT Road near Fageerabad early on Wednesday.

According to the police, the Rawalpindi bound passenger van was coming from Attock when it collided with a truck parked along the road. The passenger who died has been identified as 45-year-old Syed Sajid Imtiaz. The three people who were admitted into the hospital have been identified as Sarwar Khan, Arshad and Samina Begum. Three other passengers were discharged after receiving treatment.

In a separate incident, a man was shot dead by his cousin over an old dispute in the Formali Village in the limits of Hazro police station.

According to the police, Sheraz Khan shot his cousin Mohammad Saleem when he left his house for work. In an unrelated incident, a 22-year-old man shot himself in his house in Jameelabad in the limits of the Taxila police station over a domestic dispute.Correspondent

Apple aims to work its magic with iPhone X

SAN FRANCISCO: With its new iPhone X, Apple is setting the ambitious goal for itself of reinventing the smartphone, again.

The flagship handset marking the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone release, is set to hit stores on Friday in more than 50 markets, and with it the California tech giant is out to rev its momentum in a global smartphone market seeing slowing growth and tougher competition.

Apple upped the ante by boosting the starting price of the new handset to $999 for US customers, a price which will be higher in other markets and with extra options.

Apple shares have climbed with the approach of the launch date, seeing a jump this week after it said pre-orders for iPhone X are “off the charts”.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook described the iPhone X as the future of the smartphone, packed with technology including facial recognition, cordless charging and an edge-to-edge screen made of organic light-emitting diodes used in high-end televisions.

“It is a good example of the present, but it isn’t the future,” said independent technology analyst Rob Enderle.

Enderle said the iPhone X “is a collection of technologies that haven’t been together before, but they haven’t broken any new ground”. Still, analysts interviewed by AFP see signs of strong demand for iPhone X, perhaps fuelled by the company’s famously devoted fans who have shunned freshly released iPhone 8 models to wait for the 10th anniversary device.

Apple shine

Apple is expected to benefit from its image of being a company offering products of status and style.

Gartner principal research analyst Tuong Nguyen said Apple “can reveal a thing a rival delivered three years ago and suddenly the market goes wild”.

Apple has become the world’s most valuable technology company by refining existing technologies, like the smartphone, and making them easy, fun, and fashionable.

“Apple is not usually the first out of the gate with something, but they are able to say they have done it better than anyone else,” Nguyen said.

Facial recognition and wireless charging are likely to benefit from Apple showcasing them as being part of the future of smartphones, according to Nguyen.

Notoriously secretive Apple also has a history of coming up with surprises, so the iPhone X might be packing more than the market expects, according to analysts.

Wait time for delivery of iPhone X orders at the Apple website quickly stretched to about six weeks, signalling customers are rallying.

“I think the iPhone X is going to do very well,” said Technalysis Research president Bob O’Donnell. “What we really don’t know is if it is due to huge demand or short supply. I guess it is a little of both.”

Asking more of Siri

O’Donnell saw the iPhone X as the first major redesign in the line since Apple added a bigger screen model with the iPhone 6.

Smartphone screens stretching nearly to the edges of handsets is an established feature with the latest flagship smartphones from Apple rivals.

Some analysts see artificial intelligence as technology important to the future of the smartphone, and noted that Apple’s digital assistant Siri had some catching up to do on rivals.

“Siri is arguably struggling compared to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa,” O’Donnell said.

Google has made a priority of weaving artificial intelligence into its freshly launched Pixel 2 smartphones, and is poised to release Pixel ear buds that tap into machine smarts to provide spoken language translation in real time.

The use of machine learning is among the promising aspects of face recognition in iPhone, according to O’Donnell.

“Going with biometric facial recognition is interesting, but I feel we are seeing other technology vendors do more interesting and useful things,” O’Donnell said.

Artificial intelligence could be part of the next truly big jump to the future of smartphones, according to Nguyen.

“What Apple has done well is take stuff other people have done, put it in a device and convince people it is new and exciting,” analyst Enderle said. “That is what they need to do with the iPhone X.”—AFP

Iran, Russia can isolate US, says Khamenei

ANKARA: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that Tehran and Moscow needed to step up cooperation to isolate the United States and restore peace in the Middle East.

“Full resolution of Syria’s crisis needs strong cooperation between Iran and Russia … Our cooperation can isolate America … This cooperation will restore stability in the region,” Khamenei said during a meeting with Putin.

Putin — on his first visit to Tehran since 2015 — also held talks with President Hassan Rouhani.

The Kremlin strongman will also take part in a three-way summit with Rouhani and the leader of ex-Soviet Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev aimed at bolstering economic ties between their energy-rich nations.

Moscow said Syria will be a focus of Putin’s visit, which comes after Russia, Iran and Turkey pledged after negotiations in Kazakhstan on Tuesday to bring the Syrian regime and its opponents together for a “congress” to push peace efforts.

Russia and Iran, key military supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which backs Syrian rebels, have organised a series of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana this year, agreeing on the establishment of “de-escalation” zones in various parts of the war-torn country.

Wednesday’s talks will also focus on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which saw sanctions lifted in exchange for limits on Tehran’s atomic programme and which is under pressure from US President Donald Trump.

Tehran signed the deal with six countries including Russia and the United States, but Trump last month refused to certify the agreement, drawing criticism from Moscow which slammed the US president’s “aggressive and threatening rhetoric” against Iran.

Syria peace push

Ahead of Putin’s arrival, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Russia’s chief of staff Valery Gerasimov flew into Tehran for talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Bagheri to discuss “Syria…and the fight against terrorism.”

The military might of Moscow and Tehran in Syria has helped prop up Assad’s forces and turn the protracted conflict in his favour with a string of key battlefield victories.

Since the start of the year Russia has looked to cement the gains from its game-changing intervention by spearheading the peace push at talks in Kazakhstan, positioning itself as a broker between key players Iran and Turkey and largely bypassing the West.

Up until now the focus has been on quelling the violence on the ground and the three powers have established four “de-escalation zones” around rebel-held territory in the country.

The zones were initially credited for bringing about a significant reduction in bloodshed, but international aid groups say they are currently failing to curb the fighting.

Now Moscow seems keen on expanding its peace drive in search of a political settlement and on Thursday got Iran and Turkey to agree an initiative for a “Congress of Syrian National Dialogue” that aims to bring together some 33 delegations in the Russian city of Sochi on Nov 18.