Toronto Sun

Friday, May 17, 2002

Nurses called a murder cult

They killed 2 for insurance cash: Cops

Toronto Sun

TOKYO -- As nurses, they thought they had a prescription for the perfect crime.

The evening started, police say, with a pot of curry laced with crushed sleeping pills, fed to the husband of one of the four friends. Then, when he was out cold, they shoved tubes up his nostrils, pumped him with a quart of whisky and injected his veins with water.

Tsuyoshi Kumon, 44, was dead by morning.

A coroner ruled his death accidental, but now that the four women have been arrested, a country famous for its low crime rates is both appalled and fascinated by this tale alleging murder for insurance money.

As details of the murder emerge, it is dominating TV chat programs, tabloid newspapers and weekly magazines.

So far, the four have been charged only with Kumon's murder three years ago. But media quote investigators as linking them to the 1998 death of another husband and the attempted murder of the mother of one of them.

The cases have led one weekly magazine to describe the four, graduates of the same nursing college, as a "murder cult," with Junko Yoshida, 42, the alleged leader.

Money may have been the main motive.

Police allege the four shared an insurance payment of $240,000 from Kumon's death and bought luxury apartments in the same condominium in southern Japan. They also allegedly netted $18,000 from the other death.

The case only came to light in April after Kumon's wife, Hitomi Ishii, sought police protection from Yoshida, who had allegedly been threatening to reveal information about her husband's death if she didn't pay blackmail money.

Ishii eventually confessed and implicated the others. They were all arrested days later.

The local bar association on the southern island of Kyushu, where the deaths took place, refused to give the names of the women's lawyers. Investigators were unavailable for comment. The four have yet to appear in court, and no date for a hearing has been set.

Copyright © 2002, Canoe, a division of Netgraphe Inc.