The case of

Renée Hartevelt


Renée Hartevelt

Victim Race

Caucasian - Dutch

Victim Date of Birth


Victim Age


Date Reported


Date of Death


Case Status


Incident Location

Paris, France

Body Location

Paris, France

Date of Conviction


Body Discovered Date



Who was Renée Hartevelt?

Renée Hartevelt was born in the Netherlands in 1955. In 1981, she was a 25-year-old woman and a Dutch student of French literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Friends and family described Renée as a tall and attractive woman, as well as smart; she could speak three languages and this is where her love of French literature came from.

In one of her classes, she had a classmate who went by the name of Issei Sagawa. It’s said that Issei fell in love with Renée and he wanted to find a way to be close to her, especially when they weren’t in class together. Issei asked Renée if she could offer him German lessons because he was struggling. He explained that he had a wealthy father who would pay her for her time, kind of like a tutor, and Renée Hartevelt agreed.

Over time, the two of them formed a really close friendship and they enjoyed being in each other’s company but Issei knew that he wanted more. He was in love with Renée.

Because of Issei’s cannibalistic and vile urges, he knew that he wanted to eat Renée Hartevelt because she was a healthy and beautiful woman; these were two traits that Issei felt he lacked.

On June 11th 1981, Issei invited Renée to his apartment to help him with a German poem that he had been struggling with and this is when he started to carry out his horrific plan.

Renée Hartevelt is found dead

Renée Hartevelt’s body was discovered by a local man in the Bois de Boulogne. She had been dismembered, wrapped in bed sheets and put into two suitcases.

When the remians made it to the mortuary, French authorities were shocked. They had never seen anything like this before. Photos were taken for the police files but they didn’t stay contained for long.

Someone sold the grisly crime scene photos of the dismembered body to a local French magazine and people were horrified but intrigued too.

The Crime Description

When Renée Hartevelt arrived at Issei Sagawa’s apartment on the evening of June 11th 1981, he told her that he wanted to record her reading the poem so he could play it back and practice his German. Renée sat at a desk in Issei’s room which faced the window and her back was to the room and to Issei. He pressed play on the tape recorder and she started reading.

Issei pulled out a gun and shot Renée Hartevelt in the back of her neck. She fell to the floor, dead, and Issei fainted from the shock of killing someone.

In later interviews, Issei has said that the desire to eat someone made him wake up and when he finally came to, he was faced with the cannibalistic fantasies that he had been dreaming about since he was a young boy.

Issei laid a towel under her head and undressed Renée. He had sex with her body and then the first thing he wanted to do was take a bite from her buttocks, specifically her right one. But when it came to it, he realised that his teeth weren’t sharp enough to cut through human flesh. Issei looked around his apartment for something sharper but he couldn’t find anything so he headed out and bought a curved meat knife.

Over a couple of days, Issei cut up Renée and experimented with how to consume human flesh. He tried it raw, fried and even baked to see which technique he liked the best. He even placed some of the meat in freezer bags and placed them into his refrigerator for him to enjoy at a later date.

During the dismembering process of Renée, Issei took photographs of each stage. It’s not known whether this was for his own enjoyment, the sexual component of this case, or so he could recreate it with another victim but this was used as evidence against Issei when he was arrested.

After three days, Renée Hartevelt’s body was started to attract some flies and Issei knew that he had to get rid of her.

He purchased two suitcases and with an electric carving knife, he cut off Renée’s limbs and head and put them, along with her torso, inside both of the suitcases. His plan was to take her to a lake in Bois de Boulogne which is a public park in Paris. Issei hoped that the suitcases would sink to the bottom of the lake and never be found again.

The suitcases were too heavy for Issei to carry by himself so he called a taxi to take him to the park. As the unknowing cab driver was loading the suitcases into the car, he made a joke to Issei and said:

“These suitcases are really heavy. What have you got in them, a dead body?”

When Issei arrived at the park, he struggled to carry the suitcases down to the lake by himself. Many eyewitnesses described seeing a small Asian man struggling through the park with heavy suitcases, heading towards the lake.

Issei became exhausted and set the suitcases down before he made it to the lake and walked ahead of them, admiring the sunset over the lake. A man walked past and asked Issei if the suitcases were his. Issei said no and walked away. The man opened the suitcases to see if he could figure out who they belonged to and upon opening it, he saw a bloody bed sheet. He yelled out “MURDER”, alerting everyone in the park and the police were called.

Issei Sagawa: A monster among us

Issei Sagawa was born April 26th 1949 in Kobe, Japan. His family was very wealthy; his father was a businessman for Kurita Water Industries and his grandfather was a national newspaper editor.

Issei was born prematurely and as a result of this, he developed enteritis which is a disease of the small intestine. This was cured through injections of potassium and calcium but these left Issei weak and frail. He couldn’t join in with many physical activities as a child so he developed a love of reading and literature.

However, Issei also started developing other interests and he noticed that he was experiencing urges that his peers didn’t have. When he was in first grade, he saw a fellow classmate wearing shorts in the summer and his first thought was that he wanted to take a bite out of their thigh. He also had these thoughts about women he saw in the media, such as Grace Kelly.

His sexual perversion grew from there. Issei admitted that as a child, he had committed acts of Beastiality with the family dog and this only made his sexual desires more warped. As he was getting older, he noticed that his cannibalistic urges toward women were becoming stronger and harder to ignore.

At 24, Issei was a student at Wako University in Tokyo and he noticed a tall German woman who he took an interest in. He claimed that all he wanted to do was to remove a part of her buttocks and take away the flesh, he didn’t want to rape or kill her. One night, he snuck into her apartment with the intention of slicing her flesh when the woman awoke. Because Issei was short and weak, she was able to overpower him and she called the police.

Issei was arrested for attempted rape, but he didn’t admit his true intentions. But his father paid the victim a large, unknown settlement and the charges against Issei were dropped.

In 1977, Issei moved to Paris to study literature at the Sorbonne. He regularly picked up sex workers and said:

Almost every night I would bring a prostitute home and then try to shoot them, but for some reason, my fingers froze up and I couldn’t pull the trigger.”

Investigation Details

When the police arrived at the Bois de Boulogne, they examined the contents of the suitcases and quickly determined that a body was inside. It wasn’t until they took the remains to the coroner that they realized the true horror that lay inside.

Police spoke to several people who were at the park and the only information they could give was that a small Asian man had been seen struggling with two suitcases. Issei had left the park by this point and headed back to his apartment, hoping that no one would link the crime back to him.

However, police had made contact with local taxi companies. They figured that the suitcases were too heavy for someone to carry on foot. Luckily for them, the taxi driver that picked Issei up came forward and told police what he knew, finally giving authorities Issei Sagawa’s name and address.

Police arrested Issei for murder and he confessed then and there. They also found bloody bed sheets, the photographs he had taken during the dismemberment and the freezer bags filled with human flesh.


Upon his arrest, Issei’s father paid for a top defense lawyer. Despite there being eyewitnesses, evidence in his apartment and his confession, Issei was in a French jail for two years before a judge declared him legally insane and therefore unfit to stand trial. The charges against Issei were dropped.

However, the French courts did order that Issei should be held indefinitely in a psychiatric unit. While he was here, a Japanese author visited him in the mental institution and an account of Issei’s murder was published in a book titled “In The Fog” which gave Sagawa a celebrity cannibal status.

French authorities then decided to deport Issei to Japan where he was imprisoned in another psychiatric facility but a psychiatric evaluation found Issei legally sane and that sexual perversion was the reason for his crimes. He was able to stand trial.


But because the charges against Issei in France were dropped, the court documents were sealed and could not be released to Japanese authorities. Issei Sagawa checked out of the mental hospital on August 12th 1986 and he is a free man to this day. He still has a celebrity status who has starred in a porn film, become a food critic and written restaurant reviews and even sold portraits of nude women that he created.

Frequently asked questions

Where is Issei Sagawa today?

Issei Sagawa lives freely in Tokyo. However, he is wheelchair-bound and requires care from his younger brother or carers so he’s unlikely to kill again. He has admitted that his desire to eat the flesh of women hasn’t disappeared and it becomes stronger in June because that’s when women wear less clothing.

Why did Issei Sagawa walk free?

A legal loophole in international law made it possible for Issei Sagawa to escape prison and the mental institutions he was in.