Four-Year-Old Little Girl Decapitated On Taiwan Street In Shocking 'Random' Attack

A little girl, only 4-years-old, was riding her bike down the street in Taipei this morning (their time) and was brutally attacked and beheaded. Local media reported that the attacker, an unemployed 33-year-old homeless man, had apparently purchased a kitchen knife (cleaver) in the morning and gone home. He allegedly admitted during police questioning that he had gone back out again later in the morning looking for a target, the South China Morning Post reported.

The attacker's father told reporters that his son had been treated for mental illness once before in the hospital. After his arrest for the murder, authorities found that the suspect had several previous drug convictions and had also been diagnosed with a mental illness. A few hours after his arrest for the murder of the little girl, an angry crowd had already gathered at the police station trying to gain access to the suspect. Today Online reported that some in the crowd were carrying baseball bats to use on the suspect. Some people are calling for the death penalty for him.

The little girl, whose nickname was "Little Lantern" or "Little Lightbulb," was riding her bike with her mother walking only a few feet behind her. They were on their way to the train station to pick up the little girl's siblings and grandfather. When the little girl's bike got stuck on the street, the mother saw the man approach her daughter but thought he was trying to help her. Instead, he took the cleaver out and repeatedly struck the little girl.

By the time the mother realized what was going on, she pulled at the man trying to stop him but it was too late. He had already decapitated the child. Passersby, alerted by the mother's cries, helped by subduing the attacker until police arrived.

What Is The Real Problem?

Although we hear about this kind of attack more often in the realm of terrorism, the number of instances where it has reared its ugly head in the realm of mental illness is increasing. It is tragic no matter how you look at it, but it is something that needs to be addressed.

This incident spurred people in Taiwan to seriously question once again whether abolishing the death penalty is really a good thing, since some groups were trying to get rid of it. This begs questions about how culpable mentally ill persons are; whether it is the right thing to do to put them to death or if they will repeat their actions. And regardless of death penalty issues, what about mental health issues?

The brutal murder of a little girl tugs at the heartstrings and gets people talking—again—about a heated topic that is sometimes difficult to fully understand. Sadly, there have been several brutal killings carried out by people with recorded mental illnesses such as the Sandy Hook Elementary school killings in Newtown, CT; the theater killings in Aurora, CO; and everything by Charles Manson and his followers.

In a court setting, the legality of questions such as whether or not a mentally ill person can still know that what they are doing is wrong arise, but the answers to those kinds of questions will have to be examined in another article. However, occurrences such as this deadly attack on the little girl in Taiwan shine a light on the growing epidemic of mental health issues that need to be dealt with more decisively.

Legislation, community action, agency involvement, and education all play a part in dealing with it but there is not one magic panacea that will solve the problem. There is no single correct solution that will answer all of the why and how questions that get stirred up after something like this happens.

The unexpected, tragic loss of this little girl's life can only bring devastation to her family. In a tragedy like this, there is always more than one victim. It is reported that violence like this is rare in Taiwan, but obviously, it can hit anywhere.

[Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images]