• Kyodo


A 49-year-old man charged with murder, robbery and arson at a jewelry shop here, admitted Tuesday to setting fire to the shop after killing six female shop employees and stealing jewelry, but denied intending to kill the victims.

At his first trial hearing before the Utsunomiya District Court, Kazuo Shinozawa, a former restaurant operator, said: “I never meant to kill (the employees).

“I express my deepest apologies to their families. The employees caught fire when I tried to threaten them by holding a lighter (up to one of them),” said Shinozawa, who appeared in the court in a wheelchair due to leg burns he suffered in the June 11 incident.

He stands accused of burning the six women to death after dousing them with gasoline and setting them alight shortly before 11 p.m. that day.

Shinozawa, arrested in the early hours of June 13, is also accused of stealing 293 items worth some 140 million yen from the shop — the Utsunomiya branch of Tsutsumi Jewelry Co. — and deliberately setting fire to the building, the indictment said.

The defendant, who had previously visited the shop, went there on the evening of June 11 under the pretense of conducting business, it said.

The fire broke out at around 10:50 p.m. and raged through the 110-sq.-meter first floor of the three-story concrete shop and office before being extinguished about 90 minutes later.

Tsutsumi Jewelry, based in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, has 116 shops, mainly in the Kanto region. The Utsunomiya shop is about 1 km west of JR Utsunomiya Station.

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