Man dressed as 'Joker' injures 17 in Tokyo knife and arson attack

31 October 2021, 21:32 | Updated: 1 November 2021, 08:14

Police arrest a suspect following the attack on a Tokyo train
Police arrest a suspect following the attack on a Tokyo train. Picture: @siz33/Twitter

By Elizabeth Haigh

A man who appeared to be dressed as the Joker injured 17 people when he went on a stabbing spree and started a fire onboard on a commuter train in Tokyo.

The attack sent people running up the train and climbing out of small windows to escape, footage on social media shows.

In some footage smoke from the fire can clearly be seen filling the train carriages.

The Tokyo Fire Department confirmed 17 people were injured, including three seriously. Not all those injured suffered stab wounds.

A 24-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder, according to Japanese media.

The motive behind the attack is not yet clear.

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Images showed a major response from Tokyo's emergency services.
Images showed a major response from Tokyo's emergency services. Picture: Alamy

Witness descriptions and images online show the attacker was wearing a purple coat, a dark blue or purple suit, a green shirt and a tie.

Witnesses described it as looking like a 'Joker' halloween costume.

The man reportedly brandished a knife before going on a stabbing spree, then sprayed a clear liquid around the carriage and set it alight.

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Shunsuke Kimura, who filmed one of the online videos, told the national NHK broadcaster that the scene was "horrifying".

"Train doors were closed and we had no idea what was happening, and we jumped from the windows," he said.

Tokyo's emergency services responded to the incident and firefighters were pictured gathering outside before heading to the scene of the fire.

Tokyo police officials said the attack happened inside the Keio train near the Kokuryo station.

The Joker is a villainous character in DC comic books, who first appeared in Batman in 1940.

There have been various film adaptations of the character, who is normally depicted wearing a purple suit and green shirt with white make-up.

Joaquin Phoenix famously depicted the character in the 2019 film Joker, winning an Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA for his performance.

Firefighters gather at Kokuryo Station after the attack
Firefighters gather at Kokuryo Station after the attack. Picture: Alamy

The attack was the second involving a knife on a Tokyo train in two months.

In August, the day before the Tokyo Olympics closing ceremony, a 36-year-old man stabbed 10 passengers on a commuter train in Tokyo in a random burst of violence.

The suspect later told police that he wanted to attack women who looked happy.

While shooting deaths are rare in Japan, the country has had a series of high-profile knife killings in recent years.

In 2019, a man carrying two knives attacked a group of schoolgirls waiting at a bus stop just outside Tokyo, killing two people and injuring 17 before killing himself.

In 2018, a man killed a passenger and injuring two others in a knife attack on a bullet train.

In 2016, a former employee at a home for the disabled killed 19 people and injured more than 20.