Japan

Man poisons 17, kills 5 to save himself “disrepute in his community”

March 28, 1961
Nabari, Mie Prefecture, Japan
Masaru Okunishi (奥西勝) kills his wife, mistress, and three others with poison

The mass poisoning occurred during a March 28 meeting of the Livelihood Improvement Group; Okunishi was the chairman of the group. Investigators found the wine served at the meeting was laced with agrochemicals, and 17 women drank the tainted wine. Of the 17 affected, five were killed including Okunishi’s wife Chieko and his mistress Yasuko Kitaura.

Okunishi was arrested and confessed to putting pesticide in the wine to save himself from “disrepute in his community” stemming from the love triangle he had created. He later retracted the confession, claiming it was made under coercion from the police. Okunishi was acquitted in 1964 due to a lack of evidence, though the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal in 1972. Okunishi was convicted and sentenced to death.

During his time on death row, Okunishi’s lawyers attempted multiple appeals on his behalf, up until his death. One appeal involved bite marks on a bottle which they claimed were not a match for Okunishi, though the conviction and sentence was upheld. In 2012, Okunishi was moved to a hospital after contracting pneumonia. He remained in the hospital, connected to respirators, until his death in 2015 at the age of 89, having spent 46 years on death row.

Sources:
“Death row inmate seeking retrial over 1961 wine-poisoning murders dies at 89.” Japan Times. October 4, 2015. Accessed: March 28, 2019. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/04/national/crime-legal/death-row-inmate-seeking-retrial-1961-wine-poisoning-murders-dies-89/#.XJ08pqRMGEc
“Court rejects appeal for retrial over 1961 wine poisoning case.” Japan Times. January 9, 2015. Accessed: March 28, 2019. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/09/national/crime-legal/court-rejects-appeal-retrial-1961-wine-poisoning-case/#.XJ0iyaRMGEc
“Decades on death row may end.” The Windsor Star. May 25, 2012
“Fear on the row.” The Sydney Morning Herald. May 12, 1993
“Man Acquitted In Deaths Of 5.”
The Evening Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. December 23, 1964
“Jap Saves Face, Poisons Wife.” The Palm Beach Post. April 3, 1961

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