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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: July 25, 1998
Date of arrest: Same
Date of birth: July 22, 1961
Victims profile: Takatoshi Taninaka, 64 / Takaaki Tanaka, 53 / Miyuki Torii, 16 / Hirotaka Hayashi, 10
Method of murder: Poisoning (arsenic)
Location: Wakayama, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
Status: Sentenced to death on December 10, 2002
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Masumi Hayashi (林 真須美 Hayashi Masumi, born July 22, 1961) is a Japanese woman convicted of putting poison in a pot of curry being served at a 1998 summer festival in the Sonobe district of Wakayama, Wakayama, Japan.


A communal pot of curry being served to residents of Sonobe district, Wakayama, was poisoned with at least 1,000 grams of arsenic enough to kill over 100 people on July 25, 1998.

Two children and two adults fell sick and died after consuming the curry, and 63 others suffered from acute arsenic poisoning. Killed in the incident were 64-year old Takatoshi Taninaka and 53-year old Takaaki Tanaka (council president and vice president of Wakayama, respectively), 10 year-old Hirotaka Hayashi, and 16-year-old Miyuki Torii.

Attention quickly focused on 37-year-old Hayashi, as she was seen by a witness at the curry dish, and she had easy access to arsenic because her husband was an exterminator. After her arrest, she and her husband were indicted on a number of insurance fraud charges as well. Her husband was subsequently convicted and imprisoned for insurance fraud. Prior to the murders, Masumi had been an insurance saleswoman.

Masumi was also tried for three other attempted murders by poison that had occurred during the previous 10 years, with the motive in those cases being life insurance benefits. She is believed to have tried to kill her husband at least once. The motive of the mother of four in this case is said to be anger at her neighbors for shunning her family. The arsenic found in the curry was identical to arsenic she had in her own home from her husband's extermination business.


At he trial she pleaded innocent, but she was sentenced to death in 2002. On June 28, 2005, a high court in Osaka upheld her death sentence. However, her lawyers insisted on her innocence because only circumstantial evidence existed.

On April 21, 2009, the Supreme Court of Japan rejected her final appeal.

In July 2009, Hayashi formally petitioned for a retrial. The court's decision is pending.

Symptoms of survivors

4 died and 63 survived. Acute symptoms during the first 2 weeks included nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, headache, exanthem, enanthem, hypopotassaemia, hyperphorpahataemia, leukocytosis, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, anemia, increase in aspartate transaminase, increase in alanine transaminase, hypotension, prolonged QT interval, T wave alternans, ST segment change, cardiomegaly, pulmonary edema, pleural effusion. (including symptoms of more than 20%)

Dermatological findings during the first 2 weeks; subconjunctival hemorrhage (24%), flushing erythema (8%), facial oedema (21%), maculopapular eruption (13%), acral desquamation (17%).

Dermatological findings in 21 patients at 3 months; Beau's lines (52%), Mees' lines (48%), total leukonychia (33%), onychodystrophy (24%), periungual pigmentation (43%), acral desquamation (19%).


Hayashi's case gained a lot of public attention. The crime inspired a wave of copycat poisonings.


Japan 'curry killer' loses appeal

BBC News

April 21, 2009

A Japanese woman who killed four people and poisoned 63 with arsenic-laced curry has lost her appeal against a death sentence at the Supreme Court.

A judge upheld the verdict, calling the crime "cruel and despicable".

Masumi Hayashi, 47, was convicted of killing two adults and two children at a village fete in 1998 in the western Japanese prefecture of Wakayama.

The case has gripped Japan. At the time, it sparked a rash of copycat incidents across the country.

The Supreme Court's presiding judge, Kohei Nasu, said although there was no direct evidence to prove her involvement in the poisonings, circumstantial evidence left no room for doubt.

Upholding the rulings of two lower courts, he said that Hayashi bore a heavy responsibility for taking four innocent lives, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

Prosecutors had argued that Hayashi was enraged after being shunned by her neighbours, and put arsenic in the curry when she was alone in the garage where it was being prepared.

Chemical experts had testified that the arsenic was "the same product" as that kept at Hayashi's house by her husband, who worked as a termite exterminator.

Hayashi had denied being involved in the deaths.


Curry victims' kin sue convicted poisoner

March 12, 2003

WAKAYAMA (Kyodo) Relatives of three of the four people who died in 1998 after eating curry laced with arsenic filed a 30 million yen lawsuit Tuesday against the woman sentenced to hang for the mass poisoning.

The suit against former insurance saleswoman Masumi Hayashi, 41, was filed with the Wakayama District Court.

The lawsuit specifically blames Hayashi for killing Takatoshi Taninaka, 64, Takaaki Tanaka, 53, and Miyuki Torii, 16, by putting arsenic in curry served at a neighborhood festival July 25, 1998.

The plaintiffs, one representing each victim, are demanding 10 million yen each for their emotional anguish.

Hayashi pleaded not guilty at her criminal trial, but in December the Wakayama District Court sentenced her to death.

The family of the fourth victim, Hirotaka Hayashi, 10, has sought redress from the hospital that treated him, saying he did not receive proper treatment. That case was rejected by the district court and they have appealed to the Osaka High Court.

Thirty-eight people who were sickened by the poisoned curry filed a damages suit for some 107.5 million yen against Hayashi in 1999, but the relatives of those who died did not take part.


Curry killer appeals death sentence

Mainichi Shimbun

December 11, 2002

WAKAYAMA -- Wakayama mass murderer Masumi Hayashi, who shocked the nation when she killed four people and sickened 63 by poisoning curry served at a local festival in 1998, must be hanged, a court here ruled Wednesday.

"It was a cold-blooded, indiscriminately-targeted crime. The defendant also has ingrained criminal tendencies," Presiding Judge Ikuo Ogawa said in condemning Hayashi to death at the Wakayama District Court.

The judge, however, rejected prosecutors' argument that the 41-year-old woman laced the curry with enough arsenic to kill 1,350 people because she was "furious" after being snubbed by her neighbors during the festival.

"It is true that the defendant felt that her neighbors were alienating her but there was no evidence to support she was furious with them," Ogawa said. "However, the obvious lack of motive does not affect the court to logically conclude who was responsible for this crime."

Hayashi has asserted her innocence throughout the high-profile trial. Lawyers, under instruction from Hayashi, immediately appealed the ruling.

In accordance with a time-honored court practice when handing down the death penalty, the judge began the proceedings by leaving the reading of a formal adjudication until the end.

Since there was no confession, nor direct evidence connecting Hayashi to the curry poisoning case, which prosecutors described as one of the cruelest committed in Japan, Ogawa spent some seven hours explaining why, through circumstantial evidence, the court reached its guilty verdict.

"Three separate tests carried out on the traces of arsenic found at Hayashi's home came to the same conclusion that it matches the arsenic detected in the curry," Ogawa said. "Moreover, the possibility that the curry was laced with arsenic during the 40-minute period the defendant was watching the pots alone is extremely high."

Hayashi was easily able to obtain arsenic because of her husband's involvement in a termite extermination business, the court recognized.

"She was well aware that just a small portion of arsenic was enough to kill people," Ogawa said in concluding that she had intent to kill.

A 16-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy were among those killed in the July 25, 1998 incident.

Apart from the curry poisoning case, Hayashi was also found guilty on three counts of attempted murder, which Ogawa described as "important facts that strongly suggested that the defendant was responsible for the curry case."

In February 1997, she fed her husband, Kenji, with food laced with arsenic in a failed attempt to claim payouts of life insurance policies taken out on him, the court ruled.

Seven months later, Hayashi served a poisoned dish to a lodger who fell ill and was hospitalized. She pocketed some 5 million yen insurance companies paid for the lodger to cover his medical costs.

Then again in March 1998, the former insurance saleswoman put arsenic into a bowl of noodles she gave to an acquaintance in a bid to claim his insurance payouts.

However, the court acquitted her for another attempted murder supposed to have taken place in 1987, ruling that prosecutors' argument was illogical.

Hayashi was also found guilty of three insurance fraud schemes she pulled off with Kenji from October 1993 to the end of 1997.

The couple wounded themselves and claimed over 150 million yen in the period by exaggerating the extent of their injuries.

Kenji is already serving a six-year term for the insurance fraud.


Japan's 'curry killer' sentenced to death

BBC News

December 11, 2002

A Japanese woman has been found guilty of murdering four people and injuring 63 others by serving them arsenic-laced curry at a village festival in 1998.

Masumi Hayashi, 41, was sentenced to hang by a district court in the prefecture of Wakayama, 450 kilometres (280 miles) west of Tokyo, where the poisoning took place.

Hayashi's lawyers immediately appealed the case to the Osaka High Court, local media reported.

The case has gripped Japan, and more than 2,200 people arrived at the court on Wednesday to try to hear the verdict, a court spokesman told AFP news agency.

The poisoning also sparked a rash of copycat incidents across Japan.


Hayashi denied she was responsible for the curry poisoning at the start of her trial in May 1999, but has since refused to testify.

Prosecutors have failed to supply concrete proof of her guilt, relying instead on circumstantial evidence.

Hayashi, a mother of four, was found guilty of mixing arsenic into a curry served at a summer festival in the Sonobe district of Wakayama.

Chemical experts had testified that the arsenic found in the curry was "the same product" as the arsenic kept at Hayashi's house by her husband Kenji, who worked as a termite exterminator.

Judge Ikuo Ogawa said that Hayashi had looked after the curry pot on her own during the time in which it was presumed the poisoning took place.

"There was no-one among the people in the area who had such opportunity to put arsenic into the pot but the defendant," Judge Ogawa told the court.

The key prosecution witnesses included a high-school girl who said she had seen Hayashi "walking around the pots like a bear" in the garage of the house where the curry was cooked.


Prosecutors argued that Hayashi, a former insurance saleswoman, was motivated by anger towards her neighbours, who reportedly shunned her.

Hayashi's husband is currently serving a six-year term for insurance fraud.

Hayashi has been held in jail since she was arrested in October 1998.

In May 2000 she was rushed to hospital after swallowing metal nails, apparently during the course of a nervous breakdown.

According to the rights group Amnesty International, there are at least 118 people currently on death row in Japan, some 50 of whom have had their sentences upheld and can be executed at any time.

Prisoners are informed they are going to be executed less than two hours before they are hanged, AI says, and family and friends are not told in advance.

In recent weeks the Japan Federation of Bar Associations has called for a moratorium on executions so a public debate can be held on Japan's capital punishment policy.



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