A former boss of a Japanese crime syndicate on death row was found dead at the Tokyo Detention House on Sunday, Justice Ministry officials have said.

Osamu Yano, 71, the death row inmate, apparently committed suicide, sources familiar with the situation said, noting that there were cuts on his neck. Officials at the Justice Ministry are investigating details of the incident.

After his capital punishment sentence was finalized Yano had confessed involvement in the murders of two people decades earlier, but was acquitted at the end of 2018.

His suicide was the first in the nation by an inmate with a finalized death sentence since November 1999, when a 55-year-old death row inmate held at a branch of Sapporo prison in Hokkaido killed himself by cutting his neck with a razor while taking a bath.

According to the ministry’s Correction Bureau, a staff official at the detention center found Yano bleeding from his neck on a futon mattress, in a cell at the facility, at around 7:47 a.m. Sunday. A doctor at the detention center confirmed his death at 8:10 a.m.

Yano’s death sentence for cases including a fatal shooting at a bar in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, in January 2003, became final in March 2014.

In letters sent to the Metropolitan Police Department in September 2014 and June 2015, Yano confessed his involvement in the killing of two other people, including a company president, in 1996 and 1998.

He was arrested in relation to those cases in 2017.

In a lay judge trial, the Tokyo District Court handed down a not-guilty ruling to Yano in December 2018, concluding that his confession was designed to postpone the execution of his death sentence. The acquittal ruling was later finalized as public prosecutors did not file an appeal.

The eldest daughter of Teruji Okawara, who was killed at the age of 50 in the Maebashi bar incident, said in a statement, “If Yano committed suicide, he ended up leaving this world while maintaining an antisocial will until the last moment, without his capital punishment being carried out. I wanted him to apologize to my father and to us.”

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