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Ex-yakuza on death row for Maebashi ‘snack’ murders dies in prison in apparent suicide

TOKYO (TR) – Osamu Yano, a former gang boss on death row over the killing of four persons nearly two decades ago, has died in prison in an apparent suicide, the Ministry of Justice said, reports TBS News (Jan. 26).

At around 7:47 a.m. on Sunday, a staff member at the Tokyo Detention House found Yano lying atop a futon in his cell with blood coming from his neck. He was confirmed dead about 20 minutes later.

Staff members checked on Yano once every 20 minutes. However, nothing out of the ordinary had been observed previously, the ministry said.

Though the circumstances behind Yano’s death are under investigation, he is believed to have used an unspecified means to take his life.

Osamu Yano
Osamu Yano in 2003 (Twitter)

Maebashi “snack” killings

Yano was the former head of the Yano Mutsumi-kai, a one-time affiliate gang of the Sumiyoshi-kai.

While the boss of the gang, he ordered two members of his gang to carry out a shooting that left four people dead at a “snack” hostess club in Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture on January 25, 2003.

Four years later,  the Tokyo District Court handed Yano the death sentence for being the ringleader in the hit. The ruling was upheld in an appeal at the Tokyo High Court in 2014.

Two other killings

While on death row, Yano confessed to two other killings. In April, 2016, Yano told investigators that he participated in the killing of 60-year-old real estate executive Shizuo Tsugawa.

Yano said the murder was over a dispute the gang had with him over a redevelopment project near Isehara Station in Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture in 1996. Police using information provided by Yano later found the body of Tsugawa in a mountainous area of Isehara.

In November, 2016, he also told investigators that the body of Mamoru Saito, 49, also a real estate executive, had been dumped in Saitama Prefecture. A search crew later found human bones in a mountainous area of the town of Tokigawa that were later confirmed to belong to Saito.

Saito went missing after a meeting in the Ikebukuro area of Tokyo’s Toshima Ward on April 5, 1998. According to information released in a court-related report in September of 2014, Yano said Saito was abducted and strangled to death over money problems that included a loan of 86 million yen.

In 2018, the Tokyo District Court found Yano innocent in the killings of Tsugawa and Saito. “The purpose of the confessions was to delay the execution,” presiding judge Hideo Nirei said in handing down the ruling. Prosecutors did not appeal the ruling.