A twisted serial killer nicknamed ‘The Raincoat Killer’ who bludgeoned several rich couples to death with a sledgehammer before turning his sick focus to sex workers has sparked fierce debate about the death penalty in South Korea.
Yoo Young-chul already had a long criminal record before his first murder, committing multiple thefts and other offences before raping a 15-year-old girl in 2000.
For that last crime he served three years behind bars, and it was while he was in jail that he hatched his sick plan for a murder spree.
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His wife, the mother of his son, divorced Yoo while he was inside.
Yoo had a long-standing resentment against the rich, and he acted on his impulses almost as soon as he was released, practising his murder technique by killing stray dogs.
Then, on September 24, 2003 — less than two weeks after his release — Yoo struck for the first time.
He broke into a home in Seoul’s upmarket Sinsa-dong district and attacked the inhabitants: 72-year-old university professor Lee Deok-su and his 68-year-old wife, Lee Eun-ok.
He beat them both to death with a hammer, before arranging the scene to look like a robbery gone wrong – although nothing was actually taken.
In the months that followed he committed half a dozen similar murders. He broke into the homes of wealthy, and mostly elderly people in well-to-do neighbourhoods and clubbed his victims to death with a hammer.
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In November of that year, after killing Kim Jong-seok, 87, and his housekeeper, Bae Ji-hye, 53, Yoo cut his hand while trying to open a safe and burned down Kim’s house in Jongno-gu, Seoul, in a bid to destroy any DNA evidence.
A baby, the grandchild of one of the victims, was miraculously rescued from the blaze.
Local police were baffled, unable to identify any relationship between the victims or motive for the crimes.
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On December 11, 2003, Yoo met a woman who became his girlfriend. But after the woman, who worked in a Seoul massage parlour and was reportedly a sex worker, found out about his criminal record she ended the relationship.
It was then that Yoo moved on to the second deadly phase of his murder spree. He already had a sick resentment against women because his wife had left him and after his girlfriend also rejected him that resentment tipped over into hatred.
He later told police: “Women should not be sluts, and the rich should know what they have done.”
Yoo told police he stopped short of killing his own wife because of their 11-year-old son.
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In May 2004, Yoo lured an escort to his apartment. He overpowered her, smashing her skull with his customised hammer before mutilating her body horribly.
At least eight more Seoul sex workers met their end in this way. Yoo would lure them to his apartment before knocking them unconscious with the hammer, decapitating them before hanging their heads from a toilet roll holder in his bathroom.
While the bloody trophies hung in his bathroom Yoo would dissect this victims’ bodies into sixteen or seventeen parts and bag the pieces up for disposal.
At one point he paid for a full X-ray of his own body in order top learn more about anatomy and become better at dismembering the bodies.
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While police struggled to identify a motive for Yoo’s earlier killings they showed little enthusiasm for investigating the disappearances of the sex workers and it was only when Yoo carelessly used one of his victims’ mobile phones to call for another escort girl that suspicions were raised.
The owner of the massage parlour called the police and Yoo, by then aged 33, was arrested – only to escape after faking an epileptic fit.
Under interrogation Yoo Young-chul had confessed to 26 murders, and said that he had eaten parts of his victims to "keep his mind clear"
He first appeared in court on September 6, 2004. Despite apologising to the families of his victims, Yoo boasted that he would kill again if he were ever to be freed.
'Raincoat Killer' Yoo wore a distinctive waterproof hood as he led police to the places where he had buried his victims’ body parts, earning himself the bizarre nickname.
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His trial was chaotic – at one point he tried to tried to attack the three judges in the court, several days hearings were cancelled because Yoo had attempted suicide in jail, and on another occasion he lunged at a member of the public who he had heard criticising him.
"Yoo, who killed 21 unacquainted people without a specific motive, is a typical serial killer who gave up living in society with others,'' prosecutors said during a court hearing.
Eventually, on December 13, 2004 Yoo was found guilty of 20 murders. When prosecutors recommended the death penalty, Yoo thanked them.
The sentence was never carried out though, and Yoo remains behind bars at Seoul Detention Centre.
The death penalty was abolished in Korea before sentence was carried out, a move that many have since opposed. Including Yoo himself: “It would be unfair to the world for people like me continue living. I object to abolishing the death penalty,'' he said.
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