Page last updated at 11:13 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 12:13 UK

Japan 'curry killer' loses appeal

Masumi Hayashi (file photo dated 1998)
Masumi Hayashi's case has gripped the Japanese public

A Japanese woman who killed four people and poisoned 63 with arsenic-laced curry has lost her appeal against a death sentence at the Supreme Court.

A judge upheld the verdict, calling the crime "cruel and despicable".

Masumi Hayashi, 47, was convicted of killing two adults and two children at a village fete in 1998 in the western Japanese prefecture of Wakayama.

The case has gripped Japan. At the time, it sparked a rash of copycat incidents across the country.

The Supreme Court's presiding judge, Kohei Nasu, said although there was no direct evidence to prove her involvement in the poisonings, circumstantial evidence left no room for doubt.

Upholding the rulings of two lower courts, he said that Hayashi bore a heavy responsibility for taking four innocent lives, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

Prosecutors had argued that Hayashi was enraged after being shunned by her neighbours, and put arsenic in the curry when she was alone in the garage where it was being prepared.

Chemical experts had testified that the arsenic was "the same product" as that kept at Hayashi's house by her husband, who worked as a termite exterminator.

Hayashi had denied being involved in the deaths.

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