Cyanide in tea kills man as Japanese poisonings spread

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The Independent Online
IN THE latest of a string of bizarre poisonings that have embarrassed and mystified Japanese police all summer, a middle-aged man died after drinking a can of iced tea that had apparently been poisoned with cyanide.

According to doctors inObuse in the mountainous Nagano prefecture, Ichijuro Nakazawa, 58, died of heart failure on Monday shortly after drinking oolong tea bought from a local supermarket.

The can was found to have a small hole in its base, covered with tape, through which cyanide is believed to have been injected.

The incident was disclosed only yesterday, a day after a similar can was discovered by a supermarket employee in a neighbouring town. He spat out the bitter-tasting drink, which was later discovered to contain cyanide, similarly inserted through a small hole. On the same day, a taxi driver in Nara was treated in hospital after drinking a bottle laced with insecticide, which had been left in the tray of a vending machine.

These appear to be the latest in what is turning into a plague of unsolved, apparently random and motiveless poisoning incidents.

The poisonings began in July, when four people were killed and 60 made ill after eating curry laced with cyanide at a local festival in central Japan. The police got off to a bad start when they misidentified the poison used, thus causing confusion among doctors treating the patients. They have made no discernible progress in finding the perpetrator.

A few weeks later, a group of workers on the other side of the country were treated in hospital after someone spiked their tea with sodium azide, a rare chemical used in the manufacture of car air-bags. Late last month, children at a school in Tokyo were sent bottles of disinfectant labelled as diet drinks. A boy who drank from one is still in hospital.