Curry poisoner must die, says court

A death sentence on a woman convicted of murdering four neighbours and poisoning dozens more with arsenic-laced curry was upheld by Japan’s highest court today.

The Supreme Court rejected Masumi Hayashi’s appeal and backed an earlier court’s decision to administer the death penalty.

The ruling ends a nearly decade-long legal battle in one of Japan’s highest-profile cases.

A district court convicted Hayashi, 47, in 2002 of deliberately lacing a pot of curry with arsenic and serving it to neighbours at a festival in July 1998 in Wakayama city, about 300 miles from Tokyo.

Four people including two children died and 63 others fell ill after eating the curry.

The incident led to dozens of copycat crimes across Japan for several months. In one case, a man died after drinking canned tea laced with cyanide.

Hayashi was arrested in October 1998 but has since maintained her innocence.

The courts never found a possible motive, although prosecutors have said she was angry with housewives in the neighbourhood. She was also convicted without direct evidence linking her to the poisonings.

But the top court said that the circumstantial evidence proves beyond doubt that Hayashi was guilty.

“The defendant’s criminal responsibility is extremely serious ... the court has no choice but to approve the death sentence by the district court,” it said.

Hayashi’s lawyers have said they plan to appeal for a retrial.

Japan reinstated capital punishment in 1993 after a four-year moratorium and executes prisoners on death row by hanging.

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