Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Seven Die in Japan 'Internet Suicide' Pact

Seven Die in Japan 'Internet Suicide' Pact
Tue Oct 12, 2004 09:26 AM ET

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese police said on Tuesday they were investigating a suspected group suicide involving seven people who met through the Internet, the latest in a rash of suicides linked to the Web.
The four men and three women, mostly in their 20s, were found dead on Tuesday in a car parked on a mountain road in Minano in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, officers said.
Police said they found four charcoal stoves in the car, which was wrapped in blue plastic sheets and had its windows sealed from the inside.
"We believe they all died after inhaling carbon monoxide from the charcoal," a police spokesman said. "We believe they got acquainted through the Internet."
One of the seven had sent an e-mail to a friend on Monday saying he would commit suicide, the spokesman said.
"We found no traces of violence that could have otherwise led to their deaths," he said.
Empty cans of liquor were found inside the car and a box of sleeping pills near the silver vehicle, Kyodo news agency said.
No religious prohibitions exist in Japan against suicide and it has long been seen as a way to escape failure or of saving loved ones from embarrassment for financial loss. However, it has also been stigmatized as a shameful, taboo subject.
In Kanagawa prefecture, just west of Tokyo, police said two women in their 20s had killed themselves in a car in what was believed to be another case of Internet suicide.
Cases dubbed by the Japanese media as "Internet suicide" pacts started to come to the fore in 2003. A total of 34 people killed themselves in such pacts last year, according to police data.
Police have asked Internet service providers to disclose information about those who post plans about suicides on the Web.
However, experts say it is pointless to blame the Internet and that a closer look should be taken at the society in which they occur.
Suicide rates have always been high in Japan, where there are about the same number each year as in the United States, which has more than double the population.
Last year, Japan reported a record 34,427 recorded cases of suicide. (Additional reporting by George Nishiyama)