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Sadamichi HIRASAWA

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner - Bank robbery
Number of victims: 12
Date of murders: January 26, 1948
Date of arrest: August 21, 1948
Date of birth: August 15, 1892
Victims profile: Eleven bank employees and a child of an employee
Method of murder: Poisoning (cyanide)
Location: Tokio, Japan
Status: Sentenced to death in 1950. Died in a prison hospital on May 10, 1987
 
 
 
 
 
 
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A Japanese artist, Sadamichi poisoned 12 bank employees during a robbery.
 

 
 

Sadamichi Hirasawa

One of the most extraordinary cases of homicidal cyanide poisoning was that involving a Japanese bank-robber who killed twelve bank employees.

Hirasawa arrived at a bank in the Teikoku Suburb of Tokyo in January 1948 just before closing time. He passed himself off as a doctor with orders to inoculate the bank staff against dysentery. The sixteen bank employees dutifully lined up and drank a concoction given to them by the doctor. Ten died immediately and two more died in hospital as the result of cyanide poisoning.

Having immobilized the bank staff, Hirasawa stole all the money he could lay his hands on, which amounted to the equivalent of a mere 720 US dollars.

Hirasawa was eventually arrested, having been identified by a scar under his chin, and he made a confession to the murders.

In 1948 Japan was under military occupation, and a court sentenced Hirasawa to death by hanging. A legal row ensued, with Japanese lawyers claiming that the sentence violated the Japanese constitution which protected citizens from self-destruction. It was argued that hanging was self-strangulation. As a result Hirasawa remained in prison for over thirty years until, at the age of eighty-eight, he was granted amnesty by the Emperor.

The cyanide poisoner had spent his time in prison painting and writing his autobiography - My Will: the Teikoku Bank Case.

 
 

Sadamichi Hirasawa Is Dead; Was on Death Row 32 Years

The New York Times

Monday, May 11, 1987

Sadamichi Hirasawa, believed to have been on death row longer than any other prisoner in the world, died today of pneumonia in a medical detention center in suburban Hachioji, a hospital official said. Mr. Hirasawa was 95 years old.

Mr. Hirasawa, an artist, had been a prisoner since 1948, when he was arrested and charged in the poisoning of 12 people during a bank robbery.

He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1950. The sentence was confirmed in 1955, and he was sent to death row to await execution by hanging.

In the robbery, a man posing as a Government health worker entered a Teikoku Bank branch and told 16 employees that post-World War II occupation forces had ordered them to drink medicine because of an outbreak of dysentery. The workers obeyed, and, as they collapsed, the robber scooped up the equivalent of $600 and fled.

Twelve bank employees died. The drink was found to contain cyanide.

Several books have cast doubt on evidence used to convict Mr. Hirasawa, and since 1950 none of Japan's Justice Ministers, who must approve executions, have agreed to order his death.

 
 

Sadamichi Hirasawa (August 15, 1892 March 19, 1988) was a Japanese painter who was sentenced to death, convicted of mass cyanide poisoning.

On January 26, 1948 a man calling himself Jiro Yamaguchi arrived in a branch of the Teigin Bank at Shīnamachi, suburb of Tokyo, before closing time. He explained that he was a public health official sent by US occupation authorities who had orders to inoculate the staff against a sudden outbreak of dysentery. He gave all sixteen people present a pill and a few drops of liquid. Those present drank the liquid he gave, which was a cyanide solution. When all were incapacitated, the robber took all the money he could find, which amounted to only 160,000 yen ($1392/754). Ten of the victims died at the scene (one was a child of an employee) and two others landed in the hospital.

He was eventually caught by the police due to the Japanese habit of exchanging cards with personal details. The real Dr. Yamaguchi contacted the police, and one of the cards in Yamaguchi's possession was that of Hirasawa, meaning the two had at one point exchanged cards. The police were also led to Hirasawa through the use of stolen checks.

He was identified by one of the survivors as the man who had given them the poison, marked by a scar under the murderer's chin. He was arrested August 1948. Hirasawa confessed (though he later recanted), and his later defense was based on partial insanity, but the court disagreed and Hirasawa was given the death penalty. His attorneys successfully had the sentence revoked because of a Japanese law that forbade people from suicide (the death penalty in Japan at the time called for hanging, and the lawyers argued that hanging was a form of self-strangulation).

His lawyers argued that the sentence was against the new Japanese constitution. Over the following years they submitted 18 pleas for retrial, but the Supreme Court of Japan upheld the death sentence in 1955. Hirasawa remained in prison for the next 33 years. He spent his time painting and writing his autobiography (My Will: the Teikoku Bank Case). The death sentence, however, was never carried out and he died in a prison hospital in 1987; shortly before that at the age of 94, he was granted amnesty by the Emperor.

Even after Hirasawa's death, his son Takehiko Hirasawa has tried to clear his name. As of 2003, his lawyers have submitted new evidence to prove Hirasawa's innocence.

 
 

Sadamichi Hirasawa (平沢 貞通 Hirasawa Sadamichi, February 18, 1892 May 10, 1987) was a Japanese tempera painter. He was sentenced to death and was convicted of mass poisoning, though he is suspected to have been falsely charged and no justice minister signed his death warrant.

Teigin case

On January 26, 1948 a man calling himself an epidemiologist arrived in a branch of the Teigin Bank at Shiina, suburb of Tokyo, before closing time. He explained that he was a public health official sent by US occupation authorities who had orders to inoculate the staff against a sudden outbreak of dysentery. He gave all sixteen people present a pill and a few drops of liquid. Those present drank the liquid he gave, which was a cyanide solution. When all were incapacitated, the robber took all the money he could find, which amounted to 160,000 yen ($1392/754/1000). Ten of the victims died at the scene (one was a child of an employee) and two others died while hospitalized.

Arrest and trial

Hirasawa was caught by the police due to the Japanese habit of exchanging business cards with personal details. The poisoner also created two other incidents. The poisoner used a card which was marked "Jiro Yamaguchi" in one of the two incidents. Yamaguchi didn't exist. The poisoner also used a card which was marked "Shigeru Matsui" in another of the two incidents. Matsui told the police that he had exchanged cards with 593 people, including Hirasawa. The police were led to Hirasawa through finding the money of unknown origin. He was identified as the poisoner by several witnesses.

He was arrested on August 21, 1948. He was also found to be in possession of sizable amount of cash, whose origin Hirasawa refused to divulge. After police interrogation which allegedly involve torture, Hirasawa confessed, but he recanted soon after. His later defense against confession was based on partial insanity. He had been troubled with Korsakoff's syndrome, so he could say a made-up story. However, the court disagreed and Hirasawa was given the death penalty in 1950.

Until 1949, a confession had been a solid evidence under the law, even if the police tortured a person to extract a confession. The Supreme Court of Japan upheld the death sentence in 1955. His attorneys tried to have the sentence revoked. Over the following years they submitted 18 pleas for retrial.

Doubt over guilty verdict

He was sentenced to death, but there was originally no conclusive evidence. In addition, although 40 employees saw the crimes, there were only two people who identified him as the criminal.

Seichō Matsumoto presumed that the true culprit was Unit 731 in his books; A story of the Teikoku Bank Incident in 1959 and The Black Fog of Japan in 1960. Matsumoto also suspected that "the money of unknown origin" came from selling pornographic drawings. Kei Kumai protested Hirasawa's innocence by his film The Long Death in 1964.

Successive Ministers of Justice in Japan did not sign his death warrant, so the death sentence was never carried out. Even Isaji Tanaka, who on 13 October 1967 announced in front of the press that he had signed death warrant of 23 prisoners in one go, did not sign Hirasawa's death warrant, stating that he doubted Hirasawa's guilt.

The poison was regarded as potassium cyanide in Hirasawa's trial. However, Keio University's investigation claimed that the true poison may have been acetone cyanohydrin which Hirasawa could not have obtained. It is regarded as one of the reasons to doubt his guilt because the victims' symptoms were clearly different from potassium cyanide poisoning.

Death in jail

Hirasawa remained in prison as a condemned criminal for the 32 years. He spent his time painting and writing his autobiography My Will: the Teikoku Bank Case (遺書 帝銀事件).

In 1981, Makoto Endo became the leader of Hirasawa's lawyers. Besides the case, he took part in controversial trials such as Norio Nagayama. The defense claimed that statute of limitations for his death penalty ran out in 1985. The death penalty has 30-year statute of limitations under the Criminal Code of Japan, and so Endo appealed for his release. However, the Japanese court refused this argument pointing out that the the statute only applies in the case if a death row inmate escapes from prison and evades capture for 30 years.

Japanese courts judge that the punishment begins when the minister signs the death warrant. His health deteriorated in 1987. On April 30, 1987, Amnesty International petitioned the Japanese government to release him. He died of pneumonia in a prison hospital on May 10, 1987.

After his death

Even after Hirasawa's death, his stepson Takehiko Hirasawa has tried to clear his name. They submitted 19th plea for retrial. His brain damage was also proved. As of 2008, his lawyers have submitted new evidence to attempt to prove Hirasawa's innocence.

Wikipedia.org

 

 

 
 
 
 
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