• Kyodo

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A company president suspected of murdering an acquaintance to fake his own death hanged himself early Wednesday in a jail cell in Kanie, Aichi Prefecture, two days after his arrest, police said.

Kiyoshi Hasegawa, the 53-year-old president of a failed ironworks firm in the town of Kamiyamada, Nagano Prefecture, had confessed to killing an unemployed man said to resemble him in a truck crash in a bid to collect on his own life insurance policy.

An officer found Hasegawa hanging from his shirt around 2:35 a.m. at Kanie Police Station. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital, police said.

Aichi Prefectural Police have begun an investigation into whether there were any errors in the management of the police cell in which the suspect hanged himself. Usually, felony suspects are kept under close surveillance, particularly for the first few days after arrest, to prevent them from committing suicide while in detention, sources said.

About an hour before Hasegawa was found hanged, a police warden reportedly confirmed that Hasegawa was in bed. However, officers failed to confirm the condition of the suspect for four rounds before he was discovered, Aichi Prefectural Police said.

Prefectural police rules require cells to be checked three or four times every hour, the sources said. The Kanie Police Station has six cells.

The officer who found Hasegawa hanging had taken over patrol duties from another officer at 2 a.m., 35 minutes earlier. He found him hanging after noticing the door to the call toilet half open.

Hasegawa was arrested Monday in Nagano Prefecture after his station wagon was found on a road near an expressway interchange in Gifu Prefecture. He is suspected of having driven one of his company’s trucks into a parked container truck in the town of Yatomi, Nagano Prefecture, on June 15, killing Kazumi Ito, 52, who was in the passenger seat.

Police said Hasegawa then fled the scene, hoping to make it appear as though it was him who had died in the crash. His wife and a 14-year-old boy who was also in the truck identified the deceased as Hasegawa and a funeral was held the following day.

Hasegawa, whose business was faltering, had life insurance that would have paid out about 90 million yen to his family in the event of his death, they said.

The boy, upon further questioning, admitted that Hasegawa got Ito to drink large amounts of alcohol before intentionally driving into the container truck, police said.

Besides Hasegawa, three suspects have committed suicide in prefectural police cells since August 1998, the sources said.