March 10, 2006

Nine dead in Japan in suspected group suicides

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese police are investigating two
separate cases of suspected group suicide after nine people
were found dead in parked cars, the latest in a series of such

Five men and one woman were found dead in a station wagon
in Saitama prefecture, just north of Tokyo, a police spokesman

He noted that charcoal stoves were found in the car but
declined to give further details, citing ongoing
investigations. The charcoal generates carbon monoxide, a
poisonous gas.

Separately, a man and two women were found dead in a sealed
car parked in the foothills of a mountain in Aomori prefecture,
some 570 km (280 miles) north of Tokyo, a police spokesman

In this case too, charcoal stoves were found in the car
with the three, who were undergoing treatment for mental
illness and may have met at hospital, an Aomori police
spokesman said.

The number of Japanese killing themselves in group suicides
has risen steadily in recent years, and in many cases the
people have met through the Internet, although police declined
to say whether this was the case with the six people in

In 2003, 34 died in group suicides, rising to 55 in 2004
and 91 last year.

That compares with a total of 32,325 suicides in 2004, the
latest year for which figures are available -- down from the
record-high 34,427 in 2003 but second only to Russia among
Group of Eight industrialized nations.

According to World Health Organization data, Japan's
suicide rate was 24.1 per 100,000 people in 2000, compared with
39.4 in Russia and 10.4 in the United States.

No religious prohibition exists against taking one's own
life in Japan, where suicide was once a form of ritual
atonement for samurai warriors and in modern times is a way to
escape failure or save loved ones from embarrassment or
financial loss.