WAKAYAMA — Police suspect the culprit who poisoned curry with cyanide at a festival here last weekend may have been familiar with local activities, informed sources said Tuesday.

Four people died and more than 70 others were sickened after eating the laced curry during a summer festival in the Sonobe district of north Wakayama city.

Invitation letters for the summer festival, including food and drink coupons, were distributed only to local residents, the sources said. The letters included the time the festival would start and a map of the site — a vacant lot on a dead-end street where strangers would be unlikely to visit, the sources said.

The annual summer festival started several years ago and takes place at the same time every year. The coupons carried the seal of Takatoshi Taninaka, 64, chairman of the residents’ association, one of the four victims of what police termed indiscriminate mass murder.

The investigators also found that four people who were involved in cooking the curry fell ill immediately after eating it and before it went on sale. They were taken to a local hospital, and three of them were hospitalized.

Taninaka and Takaaki Tanaka, 53, vice deputy chairman of the local association and another of the four who died, also ate the curry before it was sold, police said.

It was originally suspected the two community group executives were the intended targets because of a history of disputes involving residents in the area over illegal parking.

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