Muswell Hill is a residential area in north London. Well-maintained homes line its streets, and many of the residents commute to central London. But this quiet, virtually crime-free neighborhood became the scene of gruesome serial murders in the winter of 1982.

Numerous human body parts were discovered in a room of a two-story rental home occupied by Dennis Nilsen, a 37-year-old employment agency worker. Bespectacled and his hair parted neatly to one side, he looked every inch a harmless civil servant.

Arrested and questioned by police, Nilsen confessed to killing 15 or 16 men over four years.

The public's shock was all the greater because Nilsen was known to be a diligent worker and always well-mannered. He lived with a pet dog, wrote poetry and produced films--all of which suggested an intellectual lifestyle.

Understandably, his arrest greatly confused and upset all who knew him.

Nilsen has left an indelible mark in British criminal history. And now, a case reminiscent of Nilsen's has surfaced in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Body parts of nine victims have been discovered in an apartment occupied by a 27-year-old man. It is still premature to theorize on his motive or background, but I have to wonder if all this couldn't have been prevented somehow.

According to a colleague of mine who was in Zama to cover this case, the apartment building where the suspect lived has a blue roof and beige walls, and it was almost impossible to imagine the grisly events that took place inside this nice, clean place.

Some of the victims were reportedly lured to the scene of the crime via social media. This is another reminder of how a casual encounter on the Internet could lead literally to life-or-death consequences.

From the apartment, a five-minute walk along the railway tracks gets one to the train station fronted by a busy street where there is a cafe, a bank, a drugstore, a dentist's office, a chiropractic clinic, a "gyudon" (beef bowl) eatery and a supermarket.

Passing many people walking their dogs, I thought about the stark contrast between this peaceful scene and the abhorrent crimes that were committed in the neighborhood.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 1

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.