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Japanese housewife stays on death row -

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Japanese housewife stays on death row

The World Today - Thursday, 23 April , 2009 12:42:00

Reporter: Mark Willacy

PETER CAVE: A 47-year-old Japanese housewife has been sentenced to be hanged for murdering four
people, including two children, by lacing a pot of curry with arsenic at a village fete. But
lawyers for Masumi Hayashi said the case against her relied entirely on circumstantial evidence.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Tokyo.

(Sound of siren)

MARK WILLACY: It was supposed to be a festive meal at a village fete in western Japan but moments
after eating the curry people fell violently ill. Then the village head, his deputy, a 16-year-old
girl and a 10-year-old boy, died.

(Megumi Kagawa speaking)

'While I was eating the curry I began to feel sick,' says Megumi Kagawa. 'Then during the night I
became very sick and started to have trouble breathing.'

Megumi Kagawa survived and soon the spotlight of suspicion soon fell on Masumi Hayashi, a housewife
from the village who was helping with the fete. A decade on Hayashi has lost her final appeal
against a death sentence for lacing the curry with powdered arsenic.

(Megumi Kagawa speaking)

'Even though she's been sentence to death my life will not get better,' says Megumi Kagawa. 'I can
never forget it,' she says.

While Masumi Hayashi now sits on death row, grave doubts have been raised about her conviction.
There was no hard evidence presented to the court linking the 47-year-old with the crime. Her
defence lawyers say all the evidence was circumstantial and that there was no motive.

But prosecutors argue Hayashi was enraged over being shunned by her neighbours and that the arsenic
powder matches that kept at her home by her husband who worked as a termite exterminator.

Ryuzo Saki is a Japanese crime writer who has covered the case.

(Ryuzo Saki speaking)

'Because Hayashi kept silent during the early trials, the judges convicted her on the only evidence
available,' says Mr Saki. 'They very carefully examined her case,' he says.

Masumi Hayashi now joins dozens on death row in Japan. Here executions are carried out by hanging
and are done secretly. The condemned prisoner is only told a few hours before their sentence is
carried out. Masumi Hayashi will now wake every day with the prospect of it being her last.

PETER CAVE: Mark Willacy reporting from Tokyo.