Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Arson
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: May 8, 2001
Date of arrest: March 4, 2002
Date of birth: 1958
Victims profile: Five employees of the loan company branch
Method of murder: Sprinkled gasoline and set the office on fire
Location: Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, Japan
Status: Sentenced to death on February 12, 2003

Death sentence upheld for Takefuji arson-murder case

March 27, 2007

TOKYO - The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a high court decision to hang a former taxi driver for burning five people to death during a robbery in May 2001 at a branch of consumer loan company Takefuji Corp. in Aomori Prefecture.

Once the ruling is finalized, the defendant, Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 48, will be the 102nd death-row inmate in Japan.


Death penalty stands for cabby who killed five

Friday, Feb. 20, 2004

The Japan Times

SENDAI (Kyodo) The Sendai High Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for a taxi driver who burned five people to death during an attempted robbery at a branch of Takefuji Corp., a consumer loan firm, in Aomori Prefecture in May 2001.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 45, had appealed his death sentence, denying he had murderous intent when he set the company on fire while the employees were still inside. He claimed he believed the employees had already escaped through the emergency exit or fire escape.

Presiding Judge Shigeru Matsuura dismissed Kobayashi's appeal, saying, "He was able to recognize that it was highly probable the employees would be burned to death inside the office if he set it on fire."

Kobayashi immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.

The fire resulted in the deaths of five employees at the loan company's branch in the city of Hirosaki. Four other employees suffered serious burns.

The high court said Kobayashi decided to rob the firm to repay debts incurred from betting on bicycle races. He set the branch office on fire to vent his irritation over the failed robbery attempt, it said.

He continued to gamble on the races even after burning the employees to death.

"The crime showed his coldblooded personality," the judge said. "Rehabilitating him would be extremely difficult."

The Aomori District Court sentenced Kobayashi to death last February, saying he bore an "enormously heavy" burden of guilt for the crime.

Kobayashi entered the office at around 10:50 a.m. on May 8, 2001, spread gasoline on the floor and demanded money. After the branch manager refused to comply, he ignited the gasoline and fled.


Arson-murder suspect testifies

Intent to kill Takefuji staff denied

Friday, June 7, 2002

The Japan Times

AOMORI (Kyodo) A former taxi driver accused of committing murder by arson at the branch of a consumer finance company in Aomori Prefecture denied Thursday that he intended to kill the five victims.

As his trial opened at the Aomori District Court, Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 44, admitted setting fire to the Hirosaki branch of Takefuji Corp. during a bungled robbery attempt on May 8, 2001, but denied he intended to kill anyone.

"I did not break into the Takefuji branch to kill people. I did not mean to kill (the victims) when I set the office on fire," Kobayashi said.

He also offered an apology to relatives of the five employees who died in the blaze. Four other people were seriously burned.

According to the indictment, Kobayashi sprinkled gasoline inside the building and then demanded the branch manager give him money.

After the manager refused, Kobayashi set the office on fire and fled, the indictment said.

The branch, on the third floor of an office building, was gutted and later demolished.

Kobayashi's lawyers argued that he should not have been charged with robbery and murder, but robbery resulting in death.

The prosecution disagreed, saying Kobayashi must have been fully aware that burning the office would put the employees in mortal danger.

Aomori police launched a massive manhunt but were unable to find their suspect for months.

With the help of a portrait and eyewitness accounts of a green car fleeing the scene, they eventually arrested Kobayashi, a resident of Nomioka, 15 km northeast of Hirosaki, on March 4.

The prosecution said in its opening statement that Kobayashi was burdened with huge debts and desperately needed money to pay off his loans, which included 23 million yen in mortgage loans and other debts owed to consumer finance firms.

Just six days before the incident, a consumer finance company demanded he pay 600,000 yen immediately, the police said.

He eventually decided to rob Takefuji to prevent the company from repossessing his car, which had been put up as collateral for a loan, the prosecutors said.

After torching the office, Kobayashi tried to cover his tracks by asking his wife to make it look like she had been using the car that day, they said.

He also made an anonymous phone call to a local TV station, saying that he only wanted money, according to the prosecutors.


Mitsuhiro Kobayashi



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