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Two Arrested in Japan Poison Case

October 4, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ Police arrested a woman Sunday on charges of attempted murder and fraud for allegedly poisoning a man in a bid to collect his life insurance money.

Masumi Hayashi, a 37-year-old a former insurance saleswoman, was taken into custody in the western state of Wakayama on suspicion of serving the man food laced with arsenic in September 1997. The unidentified man spent nearly five months in a hospital before he was released in January.

Also arrested on fraud charges was Hayashi’s husband, Kenji Hayashi, 53.

The couple has denied the charges, according to police sources quoted by national broadcaster NHK.

The arrests were connected to an investigation into a mass poisoning in the city of Wakayama in July, said police spokesman Hideyuki Shiga.

In the incident, four people _ including two children _ died and 60 others became sick after eating curry tainted with arsenic served at a local festival. Wakayama is located 281 miles southwest of Tokyo.

No arrests have been made in connection with the July incident, but the Kyodo News agency quoted unidentified police sources as saying Masumi Hayashi was assigned to monitor the curry pots at the festival.

The outbreak in Wakayama was the first in a rash of poisonings to hit Japan this year. In August, a man in central Japan died after drinking a can of tea containing potassium cyanide.

The spate of poisonings has struck a chord in a country where memories of the 1995 subway nerve gas assault that killed 12 in Tokyo are still fresh.

The attacks also have come as the nation is grappling with a growing crime rate, a jump in juvenile delinquency and general malaise related to the economy, now in its worst recession since World War II.

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