• Kyodo


Prosecutors on Wednesday sought the death penalty for a woman accused of murdering four people with poisoned curry at a community festival here in 1998.

At the end of a marathon session at the Wakayama District Court that started at 10 a.m. and ended shortly after 6 p.m., prosecutors demanded capital punishment for former insurance saleswoman Masumi Hayashi, 40.

Throughout the trial, Hayashi has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing four people and injuring 63 others by putting arsenic in curry that was later served at a summer festival on July 25, 1998, in the city’s Sonobe district.

“It was an unprecedented, indiscriminate murder by using large amounts of arsenic,” the prosecutors said.

The prosecutors indicted Hayashi on Dec. 29, 1998, without specifying a motive. At the trial, however, they said she poisoned the curry “to destroy the festival” after she thought she had been snubbed by other women for turning up late to help prepare food for the festival.

Hayashi has also been charged with four cases of attempted murder using arsenic and three separate cases of insurance fraud. She has admitted her involvement in the insurance cases.

The poisoning case is based only on circumstantial evidence, because there were no witnesses and Hayashi remained silent throughout the investigation.

Prosecutors said there were only four people who could have been alone when the curry was being prepared in a garage at a house near the festival site.

Of the four, only Hayashi, whose husband used to work as a termite exterminator, had easy access to arsenic, the prosecutors said.

One of the main focuses of the trial was whether components of arsenic left in the curry pot matched those of the chemical found in Hayashi’s house.

An analysis commissioned by the prosecution has shown that both arsenic samples were manufactured at the same plant and at about the same time. The prosecutors said the result is conclusive evidence that links Hayashi to the curry poisoning, although her lawyers doubted the accuracy of the analysis.

The defense lawyers will give their closing arguments Sept. 18. A ruling is expected early next year.

“Since the beginning of the trial, the client has been totally consistent in claiming her innocence over the poisoning case,” one of the lawyers said before Wednesday’s session. “I think (Hayashi) knows that she faces a severe punishment, but she does not show any signs of anxieties (toward the prosecutors demand).”

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