A hired suicide 'assassin' has admitted murdering and dismembering nine people – but his lawyers claim he should escape execution because his victims gave consent to be killed.

Japanese man Takahiro Shiraishi has been dubbed the ' Twitter killer' because he met his victims on the social media network.

He pleaded guilty in a court in Tokyo on Wednesday, saying "all the allegations" against him are correct.

Shiraishi faces the death penalty if convicted of murder, which is carried out by hanging in Japan. His lawyers argue the charges should be reduced to 'murder with consent' because the victims had agreed to be killed, which carries a prison sentence of between six months and seven years.

But it has been reported in Japan that Shiraishi disagrees with his lawyers over his crimes. He is said to have told local newspaper Mainichi Shimbun: "There were bruises on the back of the victims heads. It means there was no consent and I did it so they wouldn't resist."

Prosecutors say Shiraishi, 29, started a Twitter account in March 2017 to "contact women contemplating suicide".

Eight of his victims were women, one as young as 15. The one male victim, aged 20, was murdered after confronting Shiraishi after his girlfriend went missing.

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Shiraishi is believed to have lured his victims by telling them he could help them die and in some cases claimed he would kill himself alongside them."

His Twitter profile said: "I want to help people who are really in pain. Please DM (direct message) me anytime."

The killings were first uncovered when police were looking into the disappearance of a young woman, who turned out to be one of his nine victims.\

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Officers visited Shiraishi's flat in the city of Zama, 30 miles from Tokyo, in October 2017. They found dismembered body parts.

The disturbing serial killer case has shocked Japan, which has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. Excluding microstates and tiny islands, only Singapore has a lower murder rate according to the latest statistics with 0.26 intentional homicide victims per 100,000 inhabitants.

Japan only executed three people in 2019, down from 15 in the previous 12 months.

The murders prompted a change by Twitter, which amended its rules to state users should not "promote or encourage suicide or self-harm".

Twitter's chief executive Jack Dorsey said at the time the case was "extremely sad".

While it has very few murders, Japan does have one of the highest suicide rates in the industrialised world although figures have dropped since preventative measures were introduced more than a decade ago.

The rate fell by 20% in April compared to the same time 12 months previously, the biggest drop for five years.

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