Arsonist kills 5 and wounds 6 with knife after setting fire to apartment

Christopher Kim, April 18, 2019, 9:26 a.m.

Five people were killed and six others wounded on Wednesday when a deranged arsonist attacked them with a knife in an apartment in southeastern Korea as they fled the blaze he had started.

The dead were a young girl, three women and a 73-year-old man. They were all neighbors of the assailant.

The man, identified as Ahn, set fire to his own home at around 4:25 a.m. before walking around the hallways of the building and slashing and stabbing at neighbors who emerged from their home to flee the flames.

Firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze about half an hour later but Ahn's unit was completely burned out. He had been living alone there since 2015.

He had worked sporadically until he was arrested for assault in 2010 and diagnosed with schizophrenia and put under the watch of healthcare officials. He checked himself into a mental hospital in 2015 but was released.

Schizophrenia does not necessarily lead to violent behavior if treated properly, but Ahn had no record of treatment since July 2016, according to police.

An apartment staffer said, "We got a lot of complaints since last year because Ahn used to scream and curse in his apartment or spray excrement in the halls."

Police received seven complaints about Ahn this year alone, five of them after he made death threats to neighbors and two after he assaulted someone at a bar, but nothing was done.

The last complaint came only a month ago.

Ahn was arrested and confessed. Police believe the crime was premeditated since Ahn purchased gasoline to light the fire and wielded a sashimi knife rarely used at home.

But he seems to suffer from the typical paranoid fantasies of schizophrenics and made little sense under questioning, telling police that people were after him and that he had called the National Intelligence service for help but was turned down. 

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