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OSAKA — The Osaka High Court on Wednesday upheld the death penalty for a man convicted of murdering four female bar managers in western Japan in less than a month in late 1991.

“All the cases were cruel crimes against defenseless women, with a definite intent to kill,” said presiding Judge Motoyasu Kawakami, turning down 45-year-old Masakatsu Kaneda’s appeal against the 1995 ruling by the Osaka District Court.

Kaneda was found guilty of murdering the four women between Dec. 13 and Dec. 28, 1991, by strangling or stabbing them at the bars they managed. He was also convicted of robbing a female “rakugo” comic storyteller in January 1992 and attempting to murder her. Kaneda also stole around 200,000 yen in cash from the murdered women, the court said.

He was convicted of killing Kyo Harada, 55, and Noriko Murakami, 51, in Kyoto; 45-year-old Kumiko Masaki in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture; and Fumiko Takahashi, 55, in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

Kaneda also attempted to strangle rakugo storyteller Ayame Katsura, 37, on Jan. 5, 1992, in her Osaka apartment, before robbing her of 140,000 yen in cash, the court said.

In the high court hearings, Kaneda retracted his not guilty plea in the case of Masaki’s murder and pleaded guilty. His lawyers, who claimed he had drunk a large quantity of alcohol and had become feeble-minded, said he should not be held criminally liable because he may have a mental illness.

But the judge dismissed the claim, saying there is no evidence Kaneda had symptoms of a mental illness.

Kaneda maintained his innocence of the three other murders, claiming he was not in the area at the time of the murders. But the judge also dismissed this claim, ruling that footprints found at the scene of each of the crimes matched his.

Kaneda’s lawyers said they will appeal to the Supreme Court.

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