Ex-health official, wife murdered

Wife of another former official also stabbed

Kyodo

In separate but possibly related knife attacks, a former top health ministry bureaucrat and his wife were found stabbed to death in their Saitama home while the wife of another retired health ministry bureaucrat was seriously wounded in Tokyo, police said Tuesday.

In response, the National Police Agency beefed up security for other former chiefs of the health ministry and the Social Insurance Agency and their families.

Police launched a murder investigation following the discovery Tuesday morning of the bodies of former vice health minister Takehiko Yamaguchi, 66, and his wife Michiko, 61.

In the evening, Yasuko Yoshihara, 72, wife of former vice health minister Kenji Yoshihara, was stabbed and seriously injured by someone disguised as a parcel deliveryman when she answered the door of their home in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, police said. Although no connection has been established between the two cases, NPA officials acknowledged the possibility of serial attacks against former top health ministry bureaucrats.

In the Saitama stabbings, a neighbor noticed blood at the unlocked front door of Yamaguchi’s house at around 10:15 a.m., found the couple collapsed and bleeding from their chests, and called the police.

Investigators said the couple had been stabbed repeatedly in their chests. An autopsy was slated for Wednesday.

No weapon was found, they said.

Yamaguchi became vice minister of the old Health and Welfare Ministry in November 1996, replacing Nobuharu Okamitsu, who resigned amid a corruption scandal. He held the post until August 1999.

The couple’s home is in a residential area 1 km south of the Saitama Prefectural Government office.

In the second attack Tuesday evening, Yoshihara was stabbed in the chest by a man who appeared to be in his 30s and was disguised as a deliveryman, police said.

She asked rescue workers taking her to the hospital to protect her husband, they said.

Kenji Yoshihara served as vice health minister between 1988 and 1990.

In recent years, the health ministry and the Social Insurance Agency have been the target of strong public criticism for their mismanagement of pension funds and other issues related to social security, including medical costs.

The ministry is also in charge of handling the jobless situation, which is worsening as the economy slides.