• Kyodo


The prime suspect in the deaths and disappearances of several people apparently took her own life Wednesday in her Hyogo Prefectural Police jail cell despite being on a suicide watch, officials said.

Police sources said Miyoko Sumida, 64, was found in the morning on the futon in her cell with her black clothes twisted around her neck.

According to the police, she was confirmed to have been dozing in her cell until around 6 a.m., but at around 6.10 a.m. she was found to have stopped breathing. She was immediately taken to a hospital, where she was confirmed dead, the police officials said.

The police have found the corpses of six people known to her, and Sumida was indicted for the murder of a 66-year-old woman whose body was found in November 2011 in a concrete-filled metal drum in a warehouse in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.

She was served with a fresh arrest warrant this month on suspicion of killing Jiro Hashimoto, 53, after his body, also in a concrete-filled drum, was pulled from a harbor in Okayama Prefecture.

Hashimoto is believed to have been held captive without food or water for four days in July 2011. The police believe Sumida intentionally made sure he died from neglect.

While some of Sumida’s relatives have also been arrested or indicted, the police believe she masterminded the alleged murders, quoting her as telling investigators she was to blame for everything.

Her death will likely make it difficult for the police to gain a full picture of what happened.

According to the police, Sumida said to an officer in charge of managing the detention facility on Oct. 22: “I want to die. How can I kill myself?”

She later also hinted she wanted to commit suicide on three different occasions, reportedly saying: “I don’t want to continue living.”

These incidents prompted officers to put her on a suicide watch, according to the police.

Sumida’s lawyer, Hajime Takagi, told reporters Wednesday that Sumida had told him it was meaningless to continue living. According to him, she said: “I won’t be able to see my family. I have something I want you to convey (to them).”

Takagi last saw Sumida on Tuesday evening. At that time, she stood up and bowed to thank him, he said.

“It was apparent that she was emotionally exhausted,” Takagi said.

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