Japanese court's ruling ends 10-year legal battle
SHE served her neighbours arsenic-laced curry because she was angry with the other housewives in the neighbourhood.
NO REGRET: Masumi Hayashi, seen here in a file photo, killed four people and poisoned 63 others. PICTURE: AFP
Her deadly concoction left four neighbours dead and many others seriously ill.
And after more than a decade of trials and appeal, Japan's highest court decided to uphold an earlier death sentence ruling on Masumi Hayashi.
The ruling ends one of Japan's longest and highest-profile cases.
Hayashi was arrested in October 1998, but has maintained her innocence throughout.
In 2002, a district court convicted Hayashi, 47, of deliberately lacing a pot of curry with arsenic and serving it to neighbours at a summer festival in July 1998 in Wakayama city, about 450 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.
Four people, including two children, died and 63 others fell ill after eating the curry.
The incident unnerved the nation at the time, and led to dozens of copycat crimes across Japan for several months. In one case, a man died after drinking canned tea laced with cyanide.
The courts never clarified a possible motive, although prosecutors have said she was angry with housewives in the neighbourhood.
She was also convicted without direct evidence linking her to the poisonings.
Prosecutors linked her to the crime by presenting various pieces of circumstantial evidence.
Arsenic identical in components to that laced into the curry was found in the defendant's home, and high levels of arsenic were detected in Hayashi's hair, leading the court to believe that she possessed such chemicals.
The court also noted that Hayashi was the only person who had a chance to lace the curry with arsenic, and that she was spotted acting suspiciously at the scene, such as opening the cover of the pot containing the curry.
'The defendant's criminal responsibility is extremely serious ...the court has no choice but to approve the death sentence by the district court,' Kyodo News agency said, quoting the ruling.
According to The Manichi Times, Presiding Justice Kohei Nasu had also said: 'The incident had a huge impact on the regional community and the general public. She also committed attempted murder and other crimes in connection with insurance fraud, and has a strong tendency to commit crimes.
'The four victims were suddenly deprived of their lives during a summer festival they should have enjoyed, even though they were not at fault. It is only natural that their bereaved families are urging that the defendant be punished severely,' the presiding judge said.
Judge Nasu also noted that Hayashi has neither regretted her crime nor compensated her victims.
Hayashi's lawyers plan to file a petition for a retrial, Kyodo said.
Arsenic, which occurs naturally in soil and water, is poisonous in large amounts and has been used to kill insects and rats.
Japan reinstated capital punishment in 1993 after a four-year moratorium, and executes prisoners on death row by hanging.