Ishikawa Miyuki, born 1897, date of death unknown) was a
Japanese midwife and serial killer who is believed to have murdered
many infants with the aid of several accomplices throughout the 1940s.
It is estimated that her victims numbered between 85 to 169, however
the general estimate is 103.
When she was finally apprehended, the Tokyo High
Court's four-year sentence she received was remarkably light
considering that Miyuki's actions resulted in a death toll so high
that it remains unrivaled by any other serial killer in Japan.
According to a report of Children's Rainbow Center, writer Kenji
Yamamoto Kenji) referred to the incident as
"unbelievable and unbearable."
Ishikawa was born in Kunitomi, Miyazaki Prefecture
and graduated from the University of Tokyo. She later married Takeshi
Ishikawa. The relationship did not produce any children.
She worked as a hospital director in the Kotobuki
maternity hospital (寿産院,
Kotobuki San-in) and was an experienced midwife.
Infanticide of at least 103 newborns
In the 1940s, there were many babies in her
maternity hospital, and Miyuki Ishikawa found herself facing what she
perceived to be something of a quandary. The parents of many of these
infants were poor and unable to raise their children properly without
financial struggle, and she herself was unable to help the infants
because of a lack of social and charitable services.
In order to solve this dilemma, Ishikawa chose to
neglect numerous infants, many of whom died as a direct result of this
abuse. The exact number of victims is unknown, but it is estimated
that she killed at least 103 babies. Almost all of the other midwives
employed by the Kotobuki maternity hospital were disgusted by
this practice and resigned from their positions.
Later she also attempted to garner payment for
these murders. She and her husband Takeshi solicited large sums of
money from the parents, claiming that it would be less than the actual
expense of raising these unwanted children. A doctor, Shiro Nakayama,
was also complicit in this scheme and aided the couple by falsifying
death certificates. The Shinjuku ward office ignored their actions.
Similar cases had occurred in Japan before this
incident. The people of Itabashi were accused in 1930 of murdering 41
foster children. Hatsutarō Kawamata was arrested in 1933 for murdering
at least 25 foster children. The Japanese government was aware of this
crisis, but did nothing.
Japanese tradition also disputed the rights of
infants. Cases of infanticide by a parent had been typically regarded
as bodily injury resulting in death under the Criminal Code of Japan
Arrest and Trial
Two police officers from the Waseda police station
accidentally found the remains of five of Ishikawa's victims on
January 12, 1948. Autopsies performed on the bodies of the five babies
proved that they had not died of natural causes. She and Takeshi were
arrested on January 15, 1948.
The victims were deserted children, and so she
insisted that parents were responsible for their deaths. The public
supported the assertion, but Yuriko Miyamoto criticized them, saying
it was an example of discrimination.
Upon further investigation the police found over 40
dead bodies in the house of a mortician. Thirty corpses were later
discovered in a temple. The sheer number of dead bodies recovered and
the length of time over which the murders took place made it difficult
for the authorities to determine the exact number of victims.
Consequently, the exact death toll remains unknown.
The authorities viewed her homicides as a crime of
omission. In the Tokyo District Court, Ishikawa was sentenced to eight
years in prison, Takeshi and Dr. Shiro Nakayama were each sentenced to
four years imprisonment. The couple appealed their sentences and in
1952 the Tokyo High Court revoked the original sentence and sentenced
Ishikawa to four years in prison and Takeshi to two years.
This incident is regarded as the principal reason
the Japanese Government began to consider the legalisation of abortion
in Japan. One of the reasons this incident was thought to have
occurred was as the result of an increase in the number of unwanted
infants born in Japan. On July 13, 1948, the Eugenic Protection Law
(now the Mother's Body Protection Law) and a national examination
system for midwives was established. On June 24, 1949, abortion for
economic reasons was legalised under the Eugenic Protection Law in
Miyuki Ishikawa was surrounded by police officers at
the Waseda police station.
Asahi Shimbun on January 17, 1948, describing their
suspicion for 169 murders and her admitting "malice aforethought".