• Kyodo

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A 59-year-old woman twice widowed by men who died under mysterious circumstances pleaded not guilty Thursday to killing a male friend 15 years ago in an attempt to cash in on a life insurance policy.

Appearing before the Saga District Court, Eiko Kanno from Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, denied that she killed Yoshihiro Miyoshi, 32, in Kanzaki, Saga Prefecture, in August 1987, even though when first questioned the following year, she admitted being responsible before retracting that remark.

“I did not do it,” Kanno told the court in the opening session of her trial.

She admitted, however, that she had registered herself as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy arranged in the name of Miyoshi.

Kanno was arrested and indicted in August, just eight days before the 15-year statute of limitations on the murder charge expired.

According to the indictment, Kanno persuaded construction worker Miyoshi to purchase a life insurance policy in May 1987 featuring benefits worth 50 million yen.

Three months later, she designated herself as the policy beneficiary.

Prosecutors claim that, on the evening of Aug. 29, 1987, Kanno and an accomplice, who was not identified, got Miyoshi drunk before suffocating him by covering his nose and mouth with adhesive tape.

Kanno never received any insurance payouts.

Having failed to perform an autopsy, Saga Prefectural Police initially determined that Miyoshi had died of a disease. Investigators only launched a probe into his death after an appeal by the victim’s family.

Police now admit that their failure to perform an autopsy was the main reason the case remained unresolved for so long.

In 1988, Kanno was interrogated. She initially admitted responsibility for Miyoshi’s death but quickly retracted her statement and denied any involvement, and was not arrested.

In the absence of fresh material evidence, the investigation drifted aimlessly for several years.

Investigators in Saga arrested Kanno this summer, however, just before the statute of limitations ran out.

Following Kanno’s arrest, police indicated that they would reopen the investigation into the death of her husband, who was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning inside a burned vehicle at a parking lot in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1995.

Her previous husband also died under suspicious circumstances 1981 in Saga Prefecture, according to investigators.

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