Tuesday, October 12, 2004 Posted: 0915 GMT (1715 HKT)
TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Police found seven young people dead in a deserted van outside Tokyo in what was believed to be Japan's biggest-ever group suicide, while also finding two women dead in an apparent suicide pact in a car at a temple.
The cases -- involving young people in their teens and 20s -- raised alarm over suicide agreements, many of which are made by people who meet over the Internet. They have claimed dozens of lives and shocked Japan over the past several years.
Tuesday's suicide of four young men and three women in the van would be the largest group suicide yet, the National Police Agency said. Authorities found the rented van in a deserted mountain lot after a friend of one of the seven who had received an e-mail hinting at suicide called the police. But officers failed to reach the van in time, a police spokesman in Saitama prefecture, just outside Tokyo, said on condition of anonymity.
The van windows were sealed with vinyl tape from the inside and the seven were found slumped over in their seats, the spokesman said. A woman sat in the driver's seat, while the six others sat in two rows behind her. Investigators found four charcoal stoves in the car that they believe the group used to poison themselves. No external wounds or signs of a struggle were found. The Saitama police said they believed the seven died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and ordered autopsies.
In a separate incident, two women were found dead in a car parked outside an isolated temple in Yokosuka, about 60 miles to the southeast, a Kanagawa prefecture police spokesman said. They were in the car's back seat, with two charcoal stoves on the floor. The car windows were sealed with a black plastic tarp. Police said it was not immediately known whether the two cases were related. They were still trying to determine the identities of the men and women.
November 22 2004 at 05:00AM
Tokyo - Six people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning by burning charcoal stoves in their cars, in the latest of the growing number of suicide pacts in Japan, police said on Monday.
Three people - a 21-year-old university student, a 25-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman with a part-time job - were found dead in a car in the southern city of Fukuoka on Sunday, police said. The suicide pact was suspected to have been arranged over the Internet as the three came from different parts of Japan. "The three died from acute carbon monoxide poisoning. Since suicide notes were found, we believe they committed suicide," a local police official said.
In the western Japan city of Sasayama, three men aged 21, 23 and 41 were found dead on Sunday in another car which had a charcoal stove inside.
Japan has been alarmed by a growing trend of suicide pacts made over the Internet, which puts depressed but otherwise isolated people in touch with one another.
In October, nine people were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in rented vehicles near Tokyo. The suicides were organised by two women who met over the Internet and tried but failed in a previous attempt to kill themselves together.
Japan has more suicides per capita than any other industrialized country, a phenomenon often linked to a cultural acceptance of suicide but reluctance to discuss it openly.
TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT
Reporter: Andrew Harding [BBC]
KERRY O'BRIEN: Suicide seems a permanent and tragic blot on the modern social landscape. The vast majority of cases involve individuals acting alone. But try wrapping your head around the concept of a group cyber suicide pact involving people who are strangers to each other. It's become something of a craze in Japan, where the act of ritual suicide, including that of wartime Kamikaze attacks, has always had a cultural significance. Andrew Harding of the BBC 'Newsnight' program examines how the Internet and suicide have come together in Japan with the most tragic consequences, with more than 30 deaths since October.
ANDREW HARDING: Every night across Japan, hundreds of people meet on-line, looking for strangers to die with.
INTERNET MESSAGES: "I want to die." "Can anyone die with me?" "Email if you're serious." "Let's die together."
ANDREW HARDING: This is not just talk. Seven strangers who'd just met on-line in a suicide chat room drove out of Tokyo and up into the mountains. They'd planned everything meticulously by email: the sleeping pills, the charcoal burner, the remote location. Their bodies were found the next day, tied together. It was Japan's largest Internet suicide pact so far. I've come to Tokyo to find out what's behind this phenomenon; why more and more young people are seeking each other out on-line to die together.
ANDREW HARDING: Let's have a look at these web sites. How many are there?
WOMAN: Oh, there are tons.
ANDREW HARDING: Trawling through the chat rooms with the help of a translator is an unsettling experience, to put it mildly.
WOMAN: This one is called Suicide Club, and this one says, "I've got a car and charcoal briquette and medicine, everything. I'm a 22-year-old man and I want to die with six other people."
ANDREW HARDING: And there are thousands more apparently sincere messages about pills and despair and death. Japan has always had a quiet fascination with suicide. There's a famous book on the subject which has now sold more than a million copies. The book describes in explicit detail the pros and cons of various methods.
ANDREW HARDING: You seem to be encouraging people to kill themselves. Why?
WATARU TSURUMI (AUTHOR, 'THE COMPLETE SUICIDE MANUAL'): There's nothing bad about suicide. It's an individual's choice. It's not illegal, and we don't have any religion here in Japan telling us otherwise. So we're very broad minded about it. As for group suicides - before the Internet, people would write letters or make phone calls. It's always been part of our culture.
ANDREW HARDING: In Japan, suicide has always been closely linked to notions of honour: the patriotic sacrifice of Kamikaze pilots in World War II. More recently, Japan's economic slump has driven many struggling businessmen to take the honourable way out, like the three men found in this car. But today, something's changed. Now it's younger, lonelier voices calling up the help lines and driving up the suicide statistics, even as Japan's economy is on the mend. The women answering these phones night after night blame, in part, the Internet.
YUKIKO NISHIHARA (TOKYO STOP SUICIDE MANUAL): They're almost like a cult, these Internet groups. When people are lonely and suicidal but afraid of death, they find these web sites which egg them on.
ANDREW HARDING: Amaterasu is a thoughtful, painfully shy 24-year-old who's twice tried to kill himself. His day job is dull office work, but after hours, he's found something he now feels has given a focus to his life. From an Internet cafe, he runs his own suicide home page.
ANDREW HARDING: Do you think that everyone who comes on-line to plan suicide is genuine, or are a lot of people really looking for help, looking for company?
AMATERASU (SUICIDE CIRCLE WEB SITE): There are some vicious sites which really encourage people to die. When you get in a group, there is a momentum which makes it hard to stop; people become irrational. But my site is not like that. I think it has saved my life because it has enabled me to open up about things on-line, and I believe it can help others, too.
ANDREW HARDING: Why is it, do you think, that there is so much talk about suicide in Japan, particularly now amongst the young?
AMATERASU: It's hard to explain, but this is a very suffocating, restrictive society. You are supposed to fit in, and if you don't, it makes life really hard.
ANDREW HARDING: This is a problem which Japan has barely begun to grapple with. At some train stations these days, you'll find mirrors on the platforms - an attempt to force people to confront themselves before they jump. But the suicide rate keeps rising, and so does the influence of the Internet. Naoki Tachiwana lives alone in a bedsit on the outskirts of Tokyo.
NAOKI TACHIWANA: Why do I want to die? Well, I'm suffering from depression, but to be honest with you, I think I've always wanted to kill myself, even when I was small. I never thought about doing it in a group before, but then I visited a web site and thought, "Ah, if I join this, I won't have to go through it on my own."
ANDREW HARDING: So you put your message on the Internet site. Then what happened?
NAOKI TACHIWANA: I started discussing plans to die together with a woman. I had sleeping pills; she had the charcoal burner. I thought she was the perfect suicide partner. We were going to go ahead with our plans yesterday, but then she said other people wanted to join us. Then finally, she emailed me saying she decided not to go through with it this time.
ANDREW HARDING: So by rights, if this had gone ahead according to your plans, you should be dead today?
NAOKI TACHIWANA: Yes, maybe. I don't know. I might have changed my mind too.
ANDREW HARDING: For now, Naoki has chosen to live. Unchecked, Japan's suicide web sites are spreading like a virus. The Internet can be a lifeline for the lonely, but it can be lethal too.
Saturday February 5, 4:31 PM
Six people were found dead in a car near Tokyo, in what was believed to be the latest in a series of macabre suicide pacts by Japanese burning charcoal in an enclosed space.
Police said Saturday one of the six, three men and three women, was a 40-year-old woman and the others were presumed to be in their 20s. They had apparently died of carbon monoxide poisoning or overdose of sleeping pills a day earlier. "We found four charcoal burners and sleeping pills as well as a number of notes suggesting suicide inside the vehicle," a spokesman for the Misaki police station said.
The vehicle, a mini-van rented in Tokyo, was found parked on a farm road on the scenic peninsula of Miura at the mounth of Tokyo Bay, the spokesman said. "It is highly possible that the six people from different domiciles have committed a group suicide," he added.
The case appears to be the latest in a string of such group suicides using traditional terracotta charcoal burners in Japan, many of which have involved strangers who met over the Internet to die together. The charcoal burner is rarely used in modern living in Japan except at traditional-style Japanese or Korean restaurants.
Nearly 50 people have died in similar suicides since early October.
09:52 AEDT Sun Feb 6 2005
AP - Nine bodies were found in two cars in central Japan in what appeared to be the country's latest group suicides, police said.
One group of six people was found on an isolated farm road south of Tokyo by a farmer who called police after noticing people slumped over and apparently dead in a vehicle.
Investigators who searched the car found three men and two women in their twenties and one woman in her forties, said T Morishita, an investigator from the Misaki police station in Kanagawa prefecture.
The other car, with the bodies of one man and two women, was discovered in front of an empty vacation home in a resort area further west, said an official at the Shimoda police station.
In both vehicles, charcoal stoves were found lying on the floorboards while the windows were sealed with tape from the inside. All nine appeared to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
It was not immediately clear if the two cases were related. The vehicles were found about 100 kilometres apart.
Japan has been the scene of a number of suicide pacts in recent months, many thought to have been plotted by people who met over the internet. The police had not yet determined if any of those found knew one another beforehand or whether they met on the Web.
Of those found near Kanagawa farms, five came from different parts of the Tokyo metropolitan area, while one was from an area further west, Morishita said. Police are still trying to contact their relatives.
One of the women left a note saying "I am tired of life. I'm sorry." She added she didn't want a funeral nor a grave and asked for her ashes to be scattered.
Suicide pacts have been made over the internet since the late 1990s, and have been reported everywhere from Guam to the Netherlands.
Experts say they tend to occur in cycles, with news of group suicides sparking copycat incidents. They have been happening in especially large numbers in Japan, where the suicide rates are among the world's highest.
In December, three people were found dead in a truck after inhaling carbon monoxide from portable charcoal stoves. At least five other groups, with a total of 26 dead, were found under similar circumstances since October.
February 17, 2005
FOUR people have been found dead in a car in northern Japan, in what appears to be the latest in a series of suicide pacts involving charcoal burners. Three men and a woman, aged from their teens to their 30s, were found dead in a rented minivan at a parking lot near the Ishikari River in Ebetsu, a suburb of Sapporo on Hokkaido island.
Police found six charcoal burners in the vehicle, which was locked and had the windows sealed from inside so the passengers would die of carbon monoxide poisoning, a police spokesman said. "We have not found any suicide note but we suspect the case is a group suicide," the spokesman said, adding that police were yet to specify the relationship of the dead.
Nearly 50 people have died in Japan in group suicide pacts since October, often strangers who met over the internet. The favorite suicide method is using traditional terracotta charcoal burners, which are rarely used in modern Japan except at old-fashioned restaurants.
Japan has the highest suicide rate in the industrialised world, with 24.1 suicides per 100,000 people each year, according to the UN World Health Organisation. Suicide rates rose after the economy began to slump in the 1990s. The country registered a record high of 34,427 suicides in 2003.
Friday 18th February 2005
Japan Today p2pnet.net News:- "Suicide pacts a grim and growing trend for Japan"
Thats the headline in a Reuters story quoting a message in a Japanese Internet chat room that reads: Everything's horrible, I want to die. Who will die with me?"
Four people were found dead in a minivan parked in a vacant lot in Hokkaido on Thursday morning in a suspected case of group suicide, says a Japan Today story. One male appeared to be in his late teens and the other two around 20 and 30, and the woman around 30
And, All throughout Japanese history the matter of suicide has been refined to almost socially acceptable behaivior, says a post under the Japan Today report.
(Not condoning it, or making it romantic.) However, within the last decade the trend of group suicides has risen. There are even websites people can go to where they can meet others who are considering ending their lives. In my research I find that more often than not, they do find others and they proceed to these mass suicides.
Suicide pacts are not, however, unique to Japan. Recently, an Oregon man was said to used an online message slugged, Suicide party you want to join it as part of his plan for a Valentines Day mass suicide.
18 Feb 2005 05:21:48 GMT
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - "Everything's horrible, I want to die," read the message in the Japanese Internet chat room. "Who will die with me?"
In a grim new problem for officials tackling the nation's alarmingly high suicide rate, rising numbers of Japanese are dying each year in group suicides after meeting online at sites like this.
On Thursday, four people -- two in their 30s, a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old -- were found dead in a car by a riverbank in the northernmost island of Hokkaido, the latest of a series of group suicides over the past few months.
In February alone, at least 16 people have taken their lives this way.
As with the other cases, police found several charcoal stoves in the car, which had its windows sealed from inside. The three men and one woman, who had met through the Internet, died by inhaling carbon monoxide from the charcoal.
Group suicides make up just a small fraction of the over 30,000 Japanese who take their lives each year, but more involve pacts between strangers who got in touch via suicide web sites and that has experts worried.
"The idea of dying together is somehow reassuring," said Yukio Saito, who heads the "Inochi no Denwa" -- Phone of Life -- suicide hotline. "Dying alone is lonely and takes more courage. The way these suicides are carried out is very sensational for the media, and very suggestive for people who may be thinking of taking their lives."
According to police, a record 34,427 Japanese took their own lives in 2003, more than a quarter of them because of debt or economic woes. Of the total, only 34 died in Internet-linked group suicides. But the number rose to 54 in 2004 and police say the real number was probably even higher.
No religious prohibitions exist against suicide in Japan and it was long seen as a way to escape failure, or of saving loved ones from embarrassment or financial loss.
Experts warn that pinning suicide to a single cause is simplistic, but all agree that Japan's economic downturn since the late 1990s has had an especially disastrous effect.
In 2000, according to the World Health Organization, Japan's suicide rate was 35.2 per 100,000 for men and 13.4 per 100,000 for women. The rate in the United States that same year was 17.1 per 100,000 for men and 4.0 per 100,000 for women.
Experts say the Internet cannot be blamed for promoting suicide, but that the intensity of some of the chat rooms may worsen the psychological state of some of those involved. "Some people say to each other 'I want to die, I want to die,' and this may lead to their actually doing it," said Takeshi Tamura, an associate professor at Tokyo Gakugei University.
Japanese Internet providers recently began blocking access to some suicide sites, but it is still easy to find others.
Many have sombre, stark backgrounds of black, grey or white. Chat rooms deal with topics such as past suicide attempts or have links such as "For those who want to commit suicide."
"These 18 years, 2 months and one day have been the most miserable possible existence," one young man said. "I don't want to feel this sadness anymore. This is probably my last message."
The Internet can also be a powerful therapeutic tool, however. Psychological care systems in Japan are still basic and often overloaded, and psychological problems have long been a taboo subject. "People here find it hard to share their worries, especially face to face," Tamura said. "But on the Internet, where nobody knows your face or your name, it can be very easy."
Tamura runs a website for people who suffer from "hikikomori," or withdrawal, and said he knows of several cases where people have been talked out of suicide after visiting the site.
Saito, at the suicide hotline, warned that group suicides should not be blown out of proportion, adding that they make up only 2 percent of all Japanese suicides.
"The vast majority of suicides in Japan are by hanging," he said. "But that's not dramatic, so it doesn't make the news."
February 23, 2005
What would you do if you found someone shouting: Everythings horrible, I want to die. Who will die with me? Thats how Reuters read the message in a Japanese Internet chatroom after four people varying in age from 19 to 30 were found to have committed suicide in a car parked on a riverbank in Hokkaido island in northern Japan last Thursday. In the digital age, you can google-froogle anything from sushi kits to death kits, and so easily that Internet pioneers might wonder what they had wrought. Of course inventors cannot control whether people would mess up with their inventions or use them to enhance the quality of life.
In 1973 when two young computer scientists, Vinton G Cerf and Robert E Kahn, came up with the revolutionary idea of making different isolated computers talk to each other through a common language Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol they did not foresee the whole new world that would eventually open up. Of course there were many more people who made the Internet possible, which eventually, looking at the bright side, made Bangalore, for example, become a global outsourcing hub, among other things. Cerf and Kahn did not anticipate the Internet to become such a driving force for good and evil in our lives. E-trading, e-pornography, e-surveillance, e-death and who knows what else is in store for us!
Welcome to the digital age, which makes networking and sharing inevitable. For example, you might wonder how a 26-year-old man, Gerald Krein from Klamath Falls, Oregon, narrowly failed in enticing 32 women in chatrooms to commit a mass suicide on Valentines Day.
The common theme is that these were women who were vulnerable, who were depressed. He invited them to engage in certain sexual acts with him and they were to hang themselves naked from a beam in his house, Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said. Had Krein succeeded, he might have used his Webcam to netcast the event 32 women hanging naked by a roof beam. Sexual asphyxiation is a most extreme form of sexual act and in a land of extremes, of death by choice Oregon has been toying with the idea of physician assisted suicide solution for terminal patients it would have probably created a stir; and then been shrugged off as a bizarre event after the media had milked it dry.
A Canadian woman, probably a prospect for after life, who saw the message entitled Suicide Ideology in a chatroom and learned to her horror that another chatroom woman intended to kill not only herself but also her two children, promptly informed the police. Depressed women have been known to kill their children. At least 31 women had agreed to participate in the mass suicide, Krein told police investigators upon his arrest. Chatroom records show that Krein had been networking with women to solicit suicide since 2000. It is difficult to say at this stage of investigation how successful he has been. Nor do we know what was driving these people to commit a group suicide rather than doing it alone. Getting out of deep depression through extreme sex, consummated finally with collective suicide by hanging: if thats a probable explanation, then one might also understand why some people blow themselves up in their zealous commitment to jihad, which without networking and sharing wouldnt be so blindingly enticing. Dying alone is terrible. Dying becomes easier when people die together. The Internet provides togetherness to faceless strangers.
Group suicide of strangers who meet on the Net isnt an infrequent occurrence in Japan where hara-kiri has been an ancient ritual. In Japanese chatrooms, bulletin boards and suicide-related websites, people come together to talk about not how best to escape from their suicidal fantasies but how to execute them sealing themselves in a coal-burning room and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning; in cars parked in remote mountain places; overdosing on camera; jumping together from high-rise buildings. Though some succeed, others end up with terrible injuries and life-long misery. Yukio Saito, a Methodist minister, who founded and oversees a suicide hotline, Phone of Life, made a very insightful remark to Reuters: The idea of dying together is somehow reassuring. Dying alone is lonely and takes more courage. The way these suicides are carried out is very sensational for the media, and very suggestive for people who may be thinking of taking their lives.
Think of Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple, the cult leader who led 913 followers to a mass suicide death pact in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. Had Rev. Jones had a website, let us say, Your Guide to Death is Beautiful, with a seductive young woman giving step by step instructions and the precise time from here to thereafter, he might have attracted millions of people to an unheard of mass suicide. You could imagine what a charismatic jihadi leader might do in future when he wraps up mass suicide bombings with a noble religious cause.
(ND Batra is Professor of Communications, Norwich University, Vermont.)
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Wednesday March 2, 2005
Seven people have killed themselves within hours of each other in Japan in the latest round of suicides committed after pacts made on the internet.
Four people in their 20s and 30s were found dead in a car in a mountainside parking lot in Tochigi prefecture late on Monday. Shortly before 10am yesterday, the bodies of three people, including a 14-year-old girl, were found 30 miles away inside a car parked on a dry riverbed. All seven had apparently died from carbon monoxide poisoning after sealing themselves in the vehicles and inhaling the fumes from charcoal stoves.
Police said suicide notes had been found in both cars. The note in the second vehicle indicated that the victims had arranged to die together in internet chatrooms.
At least 20 people have killed themselves in group suicides in Japan this year. Last year, 55 were known to have made suicide pacts compared with 34 in 2003, but police admit the true figure may be far higher.
Alienated youngsters who leave school with few qualifications and no long-term job prospects are most vulnerable. They meet like-minded people in chatrooms and formulate plans to die together, discussing every detail of how they will spend their final hours.
Several internet service providers have blocked access to these sites, but others can easily be found. "Everything is horrible, I want to die," reads one recent posting. "Who will die with me?"
The victims take strength from the idea of dying alongside other people. "Dying alone is lonely," Yukio Saito, who runs a suicide helpline, told Reuters. In the absence of strong religious or cultural taboos against suicide, many Japanese see taking their lives as an honourable route out of personal or professional crises.
Terumasa Koyanagi, the former president of a railway company involved in a financial scandal, became the latest high-profile victim last month. Suicide sites have been credited with giving troubled youngsters a forum to discuss their feelings anonymously, and there have been reports of users being talked out of killing themselves.
The focus on group suicides arranged on the internet has been blamed for diverting attention from the bigger problem of why so many Japanese choose to die by their own hand. Group suicides account for only about 2% of the total in Japan, which has the highest suicide rate in the developing world. Suicides are the country's sixth biggest killer.
In 2003, more than 34,000 people committed suicide, a 7% increase on the previous year, according to the police. More than a third were over the age of 60, but there were large rises in the number of deaths among young adults and schoolchildren. Health problems were the single biggest cause, 45%, with about a quarter attributed to business failures and job losses after more than a decade of recession.
Despite the greater availability of counselling services, seeking outside help for depression and other psychological disorders is regarded by many as a sign of weakness. This week's deaths came days after Japan's defence agency admitted that a record 78 soldiers had killed themselves in the past 11 months.
Takashima, Japan, Mar. 30 (UPI) -- Five people were found dead Wednesday inn a parked car in the Japanese town of Takashima, near Tokyo, and police suspect group suicide, Kyodo reported.
Police said the four men and one woman, believed to be in their 20s, likely died of carbon monoxide poisoning as four charcoal stoves were found in the rear of the vehicle.
The windows and doors of the car were sealed from inside with adhesive tape, the report said.
Sunday, April 3, 2005 at 02:54 JST
SAITAMA - Three people were found dead in a car in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, on Saturday in a suspected group suicide, police said. The police tentatively identified the three as a 20-year-old man, a man in his 30s and a 46-year-old woman.
The three apparently died of carbon monoxide poisoning as three charcoal stoves were found in the vehicle, the police said. The windows of the car were sealed from inside with adhesive tape. (Kyodo News)
Monday, May 9, 2005 at 07:46 JST
UTSUNOMIYA - A 45-year-old man and two teenage girls were found dead Sunday morning in a parked car in a mountainous area of Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture, police said, adding they are believed to have committed suicide.
The man was from Tochigi Prefecture, while the girls were an 18-year-old high school student from Saitama Prefecture and a 16-year-old part-time worker from Tokyo. The three are believed to have died of asphyxiation as two charcoal stoves with some pieces of briquette coal were found in the car, the police said. (Kyodo News)
2005-05-09 / Associated Press
Three bodies were found yesterday in a van parked in a mountainous area of eastern Japan, in the latest apparent group suicide, police said.
The 45-year-old man and two teenage girls were seated in the cargo van in a forested area outside Shiobara, located about 140 kilometers north of Tokyo, Tochigi prefectural police spokesman Hitoshi Ito said.
Police found two pieces of burnt coal inside the vehicle and believe the three died of asphyxiation, he said. Ito said a suicide note was found and that investigators were treating the case as a group suicide. But he declined to say how the three might have known each other.
He said the man, who was unemployed and lived in Tochigi, was in the driver's seat, and sitting next to him was a 16-year-old girl, a part-time worker from Tokyo.
In the backseat was an 18-year-old girl, a high school senior from Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo.
Japan has been the scene of a slew of suicide pacts in recent years, many thought to have been plotted by people who met over the Internet. At least seven groups totaling some 30 dead, including those discovered on Sunday, have been found under similar circumstances this year.
Last year, 55 people in 19 groups committed suicide after meeting on the Web, up from 34 dead in 12 groups in 2003, according to National Police Agency figures.
May 12, 2005
POLICE today found five people dead in a sealed car in yet another suspected suicide pact in Japan.
Three women and two men and burned charcoal were found in the vehicle in a carpark in the western town of Suizawa, a local police spokesman said. "Judging from the circumstances, such as the fact that the car was sealed and curtains shut, we think at the moment it was a suicide pact," he said.
More than 65 people have died in suicide pacts in Japan since October.
Many of the cases have involved strangers who meet over the Internet and agree to support each other as they die from the carbon monoxide of terra-cotta charcoal burners, which are rarely used in modern Japan other than at old-fashioned restaurants.
Japan has the highest suicide rate in the industrialised world with 24.1 suicides per 100,000 people each year, according to the UN's World Health Organisation.
May 12 2005 at 12:35PM
Tokyo - Five youths - three women and two men - were found dead in a car in the central Mie prefecture on Thursday, in what police said was possibly another case of the growing trend of group suicides.
The authorities said a police officer on a patrol found a car parked at a parking lot in the city of Yokkaichi on Thursday morning. It was a rented car and the five were believed to have breathed in carbon monoxide from charcoal stoves.
Some ashes were found from the charcoal stoves in the car the authorities said, adding that the five were believed to have died a few days ago.
An increasing number of people, mainly youths, have been committing group suicide in Japan. On Sunday, three people - two 16-year-old girls and a 45-year-old man - were found dead in a small van in the north-eastern Tochigi prefecture. Two charcoal stoves were found in the car.
Most people meet through the Internet for one purpose - to die together. More than 50 people who met on the Internet chat-rooms have died by group suicide in Japan since last October. - Sapa-dpa
EiTB24 - 05/12/2005 - 17:02
The bodies belong to two men and three women. Next to the bodies a coal stove has been found.
The authorities of Mie -west Japan- have found five bodies next to a coal stove inside a parked car. They suspect that it is another suicide pact.
According to the police of Mie the van has been found in the parking area of a campsite in the Yokkaichi port. The bodies belong to two men and three women.
The vehicle became suspicious for a police car that was on patrol in the surroundings, because the windows were close with insulating tape and it was not possible to see the inside since the car's curtains were closed.
When they were not able to open the car, the police has called the emergency services. They have broken one window and have found five bodies in state of decomposition.
It has not been easy to identify the disfigured bodies and up to now, just one of them has been identified, a 47 year-old man called Masayoshi Noguchi.
Mainichi Shimbun, May 30, 2005
NAHA -- A man and two women have been found hanged in a deserted warehouse on the island of Kitadaito, possibly as a result of a group suicide pact, police said.
Identities of the three remain unknown, but they are all believed to have been in their 20s or 30s. They are not believed to have been residents of the island, which is a tourist area.
Police said a woman called them Sunday to report finding three bodies hanged side by side in the storehouse.
All three were wearing light clothes suitable for the sub-tropical climate. None showed signs of external injury other than that caused by the hanging. Each of the three appeared to have hanged themselves without assistance from anybody else.
A Kitadaito resident reported having earlier seen a man and two women believed to have been those found hanged walking in the direction of the warehouse where their bodies were found. Police are searching passenger records of regular flights made to the island in the hope it will lead to the identities of the trio.
Kitadaito is about 360 kilometers east of the main island of Okinawa.
From the satirical Japanese film: The Suicide Club
Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, May 30, 2005
AKITA -- A man has been arrested just hours before he planned to carry out a mass suicide together with a pair of schoolgirls, police said.
Kenji Kumasaka, 24, was arrested for breaking an Akita Prefectural Government ordinance aimed at providing a wholesome upbringing for youth.
Kumasaka is alleged to have set up a group suicide plan with two 15-year-old schoolgirls, one from Muroran, Hokkaido, and the other from Nagano.
He was captured in Odate, Akita Prefecture, with the Hokkaido schoolgirl in his car. The girl was taken away from Kumasaka. "I'm sad that I didn't die, but then again, I'm relieved that I got out of the incident without dying," she said.
Police said Kumasaka posted a message on an Internet bulletin board on Friday night looking for companions willing to take their lives together. The two schoolgirls replied.
On Saturday, the Hokkaido schoolgirl traveled to JR Aomori Station, where Kumasaka picked her up and planned to drive to Nagano to meet the other schoolgirl. At about 2 a.m. Sunday, police pulled over Kumasaka in Odate and later arrested him.
Kumasaka's family had learned of his plans to commit suicide and reported his plan and car license number to the police. The Hokkaido schoolgirl's parents had filed a missing person's report with the police.
By Deborah Cameron
May 31, 2005
A man going to an internet-arranged group suicide with two high school students has been arrested in a rare strike against the trend in the world's suicide capital. Kenji Kumasaka, 24, had advertised for partners on one of Japan's suicide matchmaker websites.
When arrested, he had one like-minded 15-year-old girl with him and was driving to collect the second.
Mr Kumasaka's family called police after they uncovered the plan from records on his computer.
Japan has the highest rate of suicide in the developed world, according to the World Health Organisation. Last year an average of 98 people a day killed themselves.
The growing influence of the internet and the increasing incidence of group suicides are causing the most alarm. There are at least 100 sites for people considering suicide, according to the webmaster of The Suicide Circle.
Group suicides were so common "they are no longer even considered newsworthy", leading businessman Yasuyuki Nambu said last week.
The newswire report of Mr Kumasaka's arrest on his way to Sunday's suicide rendezvous was followed by a four-sentence report of a man and two women found hanged in a warehouse. The three, believed to be in their 20s and 30s, fitted the age profile of those most likely to meet over the net and arrange a suicide.
Japan has no laws controlling the spread of information about suicide and no webmasters have been prosecuted for their role in playing matchmaker. Webmasters say they delete any suicide rendezvous points that are posted, as part of a informal industry code. But otherwise, they defend their sites as a community service.
Because there are no laws, Mr Kumasaka, who is still in custody, cannot be prosecuted directly over the suicide plan involving the schoolgirls. Instead, he will be charged under a local ordinance that prevents a man from being out late at night with a minor without permission from the child's parents or guardian.
There has been little Government policy debate on Japan's suicide epidemic, and there is little action on depression, the most common cause of suicide. Women made widows by suicide spoke in Japan's Parliament yesterday and urged the Government to take the issue seriously.
Sat, Aug. 06, 2005
OSAKA, Japan - (KRT) - A 36-year-old man was arrested Friday on suspicion of killing a woman he met through a suicide Web site and abandoning her body. He also confessed to killing two other people who he met through the same Web site, sources said Saturday.
He was sent to the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office on Saturday. The Osaka prefectural police suspect Hiroshi Maeue committed a series of murders linked to suicide Web sites and had begun to search for the bodies of the other two victims on Saturday afternoon.
Maeue, of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, a contract employee at a temporary staff agency, allegedly took Michiko Nagamoto, 25, of Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, for a ride in a rented car on Feb. 19 and went to a mountainous area in Kawachinagano in the same prefecture where at about 10 p.m. he bound her arms and legs with cord and covered her mouth and nose with his hands, suffocating her.
He later allegedly left her in a grave dug at a nearby riverside area and discarded her clothing and a shovel by throwing them into a nearby pond and a garbage box.
Maeue admitted killing her, and said he blocked off her nose and mouth because he wanted to see a person suffocate and suffer in agony, adding that he had not targeted a specific person, sources said. He reportedly bound her arms and legs to ensure she could not resist him.
The body of Nagamoto was found in February.
Police suspect that Maeue sent an e-mail to Nagamoto, who had connected to the suicide site in December, proposing that they commit suicide by burning charcoal inside a sealed car to cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Maeue allegedly contacted the woman about 20 times via e-mail, sending Nagamoto pictures of the place he had chosen for them to commit suicide and asking to buy the charcoal needed. He pretended to be a prospective suicide, but apparently had no intention of taking his own life, source said.
Maeue sent Nagamoto e-mails with false names from several Internet cafes to conceal his identity and directed her to delete the e-mails she received from him, according to the sources.
The police believe Maeue wrote to other group suicide sites in search of other targets and hope analysis of his confiscated personal computers will provide further information.
Maeue told police that he also smothered a male middle school student living in Kobe in May and a young man living in Higashi-Osaka in the prefecture in June and abandoned their bodies in separate mountainous areas, sources said Saturday.
Maeue confessed to having photographed the bodies of the two males to keep pictures of them for viewing, according to the sources. The police also confiscated volumes of such pictures and video clips.
Maeue told police that he buried the body of the middle school student in a mountainous area between Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, and Wakayama Prefecture, and abandoned the young man's body in a dam in Kawachinagano, source said.
The police believe the two referred to by Maeue are a 14-year-old third-year middle school student from Kita Ward, Kobe, missing since May 21, when he told his family he was going to Osaka, and a 21-year-old university student from Higashi-Osaka missing since early June.
According to the sources, when Maeue sent the two e-mails proposing they all commit suicide together, both answered that they wanted to die.
Maeue is single and lives with his father, a former police officer, and his mother in Sakai. He was arrested in 1995, 2001 and 2002 for suffocation attacks on three victims, including a middle school student, in which he covered the victims' mouth and nose with his hands until they were unconscious. He was given a prison term in the 2002 case.
After graduating from a private university in the Hokuriku district, Maeue changed jobs frequently, working as a taxi driver and a temporary staffer. At the time of his arrest he was working as a temporary staffer for a camera manufacturer in Osakasayama, Osaka Prefecture.
He often confined himself to a prefabricated building on the same property as his parents' house, spending his hours away from work surfing the Internet and watching videos.
The Japan Times Online
Sunday, August 7, 2005
OSAKA (Kyodo) A 36-year-old man arrested late Friday on suspicion of killing a woman he met through a suicide Web site has confessed to killing two other victims who also believed he shared their desire to commit suicide, according to police sources.
Hiroshi Maeue, 36, an employee at a temporary staff agency, was arrested on suspicion of suffocating Michiko Nagamoto, 25, in February.
He has also reportedly admitted to killing a male junior high school student from Hyogo Prefecture in May and a male college student from Higashi Osaka in June, and dumping their bodies in mountains in southern parts of Osaka Prefecture.
Late Saturday, police found what appeared to be the partial remains of the junior high school student on a mountain slope where Maeue said he buried the body.
The Osaka Prefectural Police suspect Maeue had proposed to Nagamoto that they commit suicide together, even though he apparently had no intention of killing himself, the sources said.
Maeue is suspected of killing her Feb. 19 inside a rented car after sending her an e-mail asking to meet. He allegedly abandoned her body in a mountain forest.
The police sources said he admitted to killing her, and told investigators he feels "sexually excited" to see a person being suffocated and suffering in agony.
Maeue is from Sakai and Nagamoto was from Toyonaka, both in Osaka Prefecture. They apparently met for the first time at the time of Nagamoto's death, though they had exchanged e-mail about 20 times since late last year.
Nagamoto's body was found Feb. 23 and was later identified through fingerprints. The body was buried along a river in a mountainous area in Kawachinagano, Osaka Prefecture.
Police traced Maeue as a suspect by tracking down records of e-mails as well as the car rental contract, according to the sources.
Maeue reportedly told police he also suffocated a male junior high school student in May and a male college student in June, and abandoned their bodies in separate mountainous areas in southern Osaka Prefecture.
After checking missing persons reports, police suspect the victim in the May case was a 14-year-old boy from Kobe and the other a 21-year-old college student.
Suicide Web sites have made headlines in recent years as a number of people have committed suicides in groups after meeting through the Internet. These people typically commit suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning by confining themselves in sealed vehicles and burning charcoal stoves.
Maeue is believed to have posted messages on several suicide Web sites.
Since his mid-20s, he was arrested on several occasions for attempting to suffocate female passersby on streets. In 2002, he was sentenced to 10 months for one of those incidents.
17/08/2005 15:07 - News24 (SA)
Tokyo - Two young men and a high school girl were found dead on Wednesday in a locked one-room apartment with police suspecting the trio died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Japan's latest internet suicide pact.
A police official said the three - a mentally ill 28-year-old male office woorker, a 23-year-old man and a 17-year-old high school girl - were discovered by the office worker's boss in the central city of Nagoya.
The official said: "They appeared to be strangers. They must have gotten to know one another through an internet suicide site.
Police found a grill and burned charcoal in the apartment, leading to suspicions that they died from carbon monoxide poisoning, a suicide method recommended on Japan's internet sites.
Boss uses master key
The officials said: "The 28-year-old office worker had mental illness and his boss used to accompany him to a hospital. When the boss went to his apartment today, the door was locked, but he entered the room with a master key."
At least 68 people had died in such pacts since last October, usually by sealing the windows of rented cars and lighting charcoal burners - which were rarely used in modern Japan - to induce carbon dioxide poisoning.
According to the World Health Organisation, Japan had the highest suicide rate in the industrialised world, with 24.1 suicides per 100 000 people each year.
06th of September 2005
Two Taiwanese who met on the internet have committed suicide together in the island's latest case of "Internet suicide.
Lee Wen-yu, 21, male, and Huang Yu-fang, 29, female, were found dead in the bathroom of a hotel room in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, on Monday. Hotel staff found burnt charcoal and a suicide note beside their bodies, the United Evening News said.
The suicide note said that they did not know each other, but were members of a Internet suicide club and wanted to commit suicide together, the paper said.
The pair checked into the hotel on Sunday and were expected to check out on Tuesday. When they had not checked out by noon, hotel staff went into their room and found them dead.
The Internet suicides phenomenon began in Japan and spread to Taiwan, South Korea and China. Since January, Taiwan has reported a dozen cases and Taiwan police have shut down several suicide websites.
Taiwan has one of the highest suicide rates in Asia. Last year, 3,468 Taiwanese took their lives, averaging almost 10 suicides per day, or one suicide every two and a half hours. (dpa)
This Is Local London
9:04am Wednesday 5th October 2005
TWO people who met on the internet died in a bizarre suicide pact after planning their deaths online.
Maria Williams, of Bowditch, Deptford, and Chris Aston, from Liverpool, killed themselves using the fumes from a burning tray of barbecue charcoal. An inquest heard how the pair died from carbon monoxide poisoning after using the suicide technique, which is common in Japan.
Their bodies were found in a red BMW in the car park at the Peninsula Retail Park, Bugsby's Way, Charlton, at around 7pm on February 23. Police found the tray of charcoal on the front seat next to Miss Williams. Mr Aston was lying on the back seat.
Southwark Coroner's Court heard Miss Williams, 42, and Mr Aston, 25, met on the internet and then kept in contact through various websites to plan their elaborate suicide pact. The court was also told how Miss Williams has previously attempted suicide 12 years ago, when she was treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the abdomen.
Coroner Andrew Sampson recorded a verdict of suicide in both cases.
October 07, 2005
Finding a soul mate is one of the great rewards of the Internet for many across the globe. Yet in Japan, cyberspace is also a convenient location for those trying to find someone to die with, as the country continues to grapple with its ever-increasing suicide rate.
On Wednesday Japan's national police agency announced guidelines requiring Internet providers and telecommunications groups to report any postings they find on the Internet about potential suicides. The police emphasized the need for quick action when the supposed date of the suicide is indicated or if the location or method of killing oneself is indicated.
The police pointed out that the number of suicidal people who go about either declaring on the World Wide Web that they are about to kill themselves or seek others to commit collective suicide continues to rise and argued that by cracking down on such sites they may be able to prevent a significant number of suicides from occurring.
As a rule, ISPs are obliged to preserve the individual's right to privacy in cyberspace, but if the postings they find appear to fit what the authorities designate as a so-called emergency under law, they are free to notify the police about the suicide dialogue, even though the definition of an emergency situation is largely open to individual interpretation. Nevertheless, such requests from the government are antagonizing critics who object to such bureaucratic intervention in freedom of speech and the right to privacy.
At the same time, there is no doubt that suicide -- and group suicide among strangers who find one another on the Internet -- is a serious concern for Japanese society at large. In fact, suicide is the single-biggest cause of death for those between the ages of 20 to 39, according to the health ministry. The number of suicides has exceeded 30,000 for the fourth year in a row, and the per capita rate of suicides is about twice that in the United States. In fact, Japan has the second-highest suicide rate in the world after Sri Lanka, according to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry reported in August that four major Japanese telecommunications groups -- the Telecommunications Carriers Association, the Telecom Services Association, the Japan Internet Providers Association and the Japan Cable and Telecommunications Association -- must work closely with the government to identify and ultimately stop suicidal individuals from seeking each other out and killing themselves.
Some bloggers argued that talking about killing oneself anonymously on the Internet is an important way for many young people to think about their lives and living in general.
"Telling someone who's suicidal that killing yourself is wrong just doesn't work ... It's more important to listen to what they have to say, and try to empathize with their feelings in order to prevent them from committing suicide," one blogger wrote on a Web site dedicated to studying the psychology of those who are suicidal.
At the same time, stories like that of one man and two women killing themselves in a suburban Tokyo apartment continue to shock the nation. The three seemingly unrelated people found each other through a so-called suicide club Web site that called upon like-minded people to get together to muster up the courage to end their lives together. The 30-year-old man had recently lost his job, while one 22-year-old woman had just gone through a divorce and the other woman had been under pressure about her growing debts. They killed themselves by starting up a coal-burning stove and sealing windows and doors with duct tape to ensure they would all die of carbon-monoxide poisoning.
By Daniel Boffey
10 October 2005
THE harrowing lives of Britain's first internet suicide pact victims are revealed by the Mirror today. Finance officer Chris Aston, 25, and bisexual Maria Williams, 42, killed themselves after linking up through a sickening suicide website. They had never met before.
Maria's friend Marina Rodriguez, of South London, said: "She'd tried to kill herself before. Perhaps she needed to find someone who'd be there at the end." Paul Kelly, whose 18-year-old son killed himself after logging on to the same site, said: "These sites must be closed down."
HE WAS AN AUTISTIC GENIUS .. SHE WAS A BISEXUAL FANTASIST. THE WEB BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER .. THE WEB HELPED THEM FIND DEATH
By Daniel Boffey And Victoria Bone
THEY were lonely strangers living hundreds of miles apart until they met to die in Britain's first internet suicide pact.
In a different world they would never have met to feed each other's anxieties. They may even have survived their crises. Instead, they became hooked on sickening suicide websites that advised them how to die and finally linked them in death. They were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in a BMW in a South London car park. Ashes of barbecue coal littered the passenger footwell.
Maria was known to trawl the Ash (Alternative Suicide Holiday) site, a platform for guides advising on ways to die and encouraging people to think about suicide as being as simple as "catching a bus". Now there are renewed calls - echoed worldwide - for the websites to be closed down.
Campaigner Paul Kelly's 18-year-old son Simon ended his life after talking about his suicide on an Ash chatroom where others who had logged on were clearly egging him on. He said: "They didn't care about my son. He should have been talking to someone who did. I'm determined to get these sites shut down. We have to act and get something done."
Dyslexic Chris, a Manchester University PhD student in Bioinformatics, was the eldest son of mum Frances, a teacher, and dad Brendan, a packaging technologist. He was brought up in an end of terrace four-bedroom house in Mossley Hill, Liverpool. His studies were going well and his social world revolved around being finance officer of the University canoe club where he arranged intricately complex financial accounts few others could understand.
His friend Adam Wallis, 22, said: "We had a training session every Tuesday and afterwards we'd always go to the pub for a few beers and a chat. Even if Chris didn't come to the pool, he'd always come for a drink. He was a bit timid and I think he struggled to insert himself fully into social situations, but he always came along."
But Chris had a dark secret. He was prone to panic attacks, had drank a bottle of medicine when he was 12 and took an overdose of paracetamol four years ago. His mother told an inquest at Southwark coroner's court, in South London: "He had very good friends who cared for him but sometimes his perception of that was the opposite."
Chris's despair mounted and over Christmas last year he decided to kill himself. Instead of turning to friends and family he logged on to the websites, newsgroups and chatrooms that would help him to die. His e-search became obsessive. Friends say that in his last few weeks he was spending nearly all his time on his computer.
Adam said: "We'd absolutely no idea of what was going through his mind. But one incident a month before he died made me wonder. Chris was club treasurer, but as trips organiser it made more sense for me to handle finances in that area. He didn't like that. He was reluctant to give up control. He'd built up his role as treasurer to be more than it was. I think he wanted to feel important, like he had a crucial part to play. HE couldn't cope with being diminished in any way and got very stressed about it. He offered to resign, but we just told him not to get so worked up. We told him it didn't matter."
But it did matter to Chris and, a day or two before taking his own life, the sensitive young man wiped his profile from the club website. Fatally by now he was in contact, probably through a linked chatroom, with a woman he knew only as Marie Sanchez. Marie, real name Maria Williams, had been struggling to find a way through life for years.
She was born and raised in South London as one of seven children, most of whom had different fathers. Her own father walked out, her mother died and she drifted apart from the only family she was close to, her brother. She was briefly married to an Egyptian man, learning fluent Arabic and regularly travelling abroad, even though she was on the dole.
Maria also fancied herself as a private investigator and sued a solicitor she believed had illegally taken some of her mother's inheritance from her grandmother. She won, but the money was soon frittered away.
After she split from her husband Maria, who was once in prison, spent her days printing fake food vouchers, which she would exchange for sweets. A family member told us: "She was a nice person if she liked you, but if she didn't then she could be hard and vicious."
Over the last few years, Maria had become fixated on death and tried to kill herself several times. But her botched attempts were seen as calls for help and ended with friends coming to her aid.
However, as her depression mounted, death continued to haunt her mind. At night in the privacy of her spotless flat in a tower block on a notorious estate in Deptford, South East London, she spent up to eight hours at a time on her computer. Mostly she visited chatrooms and in particular, a family member revealed, the Ash site.
Friend and neighbour Marina Rodriguez said: "Over the last two years she was spending so much time on the computer. She'd talk about killing herself and had tried and failed before. Perhaps she needed to find someone who'd be there at the end."
Ash is the mother of all suicide sites containing links to newsgroups and an archive of fact sheets that glamorise death. It has been linked to at least six deaths in the UK in recent years. The site was partly founded by Peter Truman, a married man in his 30s. He denies having anything to do with it for the last 10 years.
A WOMAN who answered the door of his home in Erdington, Birmingham, told the Mirror: "He doesn't want to say anything."
Ash is now an archive run by a Dutch writer ...
Governments worldwide are slowly beginning to take action to ban pro-suicide websites which are blamed for more than 100 deaths. But experts say it will be almost impossible to eradicate the disturbing sites. Australian lawmakers recently passed a Bill making it illegal to use the internet to encourage people to commit suicide.
Offenders, either individuals or businesses, hosting pro-suicide sites in Australia will face fines of up to £300,000.
In Japan, which has the world's highest suicide rate, police have called on internet service providers to give them tip-offs when they see messages suggesting an imminent suicide.
In the US, 35 states have criminalised "assisted suicide" which usually means a doctor giving lethal drugs to a terminally ill patient.
Prosecutors are now planning to use the same law to target people who post messages on suicide websites. If convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the authors could face up to 15 years behind bars. The Home Office has said: "The Government understands the concerns regarding these websites. It is a very complex issue and there is no quick or easy fix."
December 11, 2005
Police said they suspect group suicides claimed the lives of eight people Saturday in separate incidents across Japan.
In one incident, four people were found dead Saturday morning in a vehicle parked at a rest stop in the western Japanese city of Yabu, police said.
The bodies of four others were found in a house in the central city of Okazaki, according to police.
The second incident may have been a group murder-suicide because one victim had been stabbed in the stomach with a kitchen knife, said area police official Nobuyuki Sawaki.
Kyodo News agency reported that notes left behind in the Okazaki incident indicated a group suicide, but Sawaki said the circumstances of the deaths of the three men and one woman were still being investigated.
The four in Okazaki appear to be have been relatives, with two apparently in their 70s and two believed to be in their 40s, Sawaki said.
Police are also trying to determine how the four people died in the vehicle in Yabu, but suicide is also suspected, police said.
The bodies of three men and one woman were found in the vehicle along with charcoal stoves, said Chikao Yuraku, a police official in the area. The auto had also been sealed with tape, he said. It wasn't immediately clear what type of vehicle was involved.
Charcoal stoves, which produce gasses that can be lethal in a small, sealed area, have been used in past group suicides in Japan.
Japan, which has one of the highest suicide rates among wealthy countries, has budgeted hundreds of millions of yen for programs to help those with depression and other psychological conditions. But the efforts seem to have had only minimal impact.
In the middle of this year, Japan announced a crackdown on Internet sites that spread information on group suicides, following a surge in deaths by people who met each other online.
Last year, 55 people killed themselves after meeting on the Web, up from 34 the previous year, the National Police Agency said. (AP)
Tokyo | December 12, 2005 12:01:13 AM IST
Police in Japan say 10 people were found dead after participating in group suicides. The dead include three men and a woman whose bodies were found in a van parked at a roadside rest area in Yabu, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan Today reported. The van, with three charcoal stoves inside, was sealed with duct tape.
Another group of four -- including a man and woman in their 70s and two younger men -- were found in a private house in Aichi Prefecture. One man died from being stabbed in the stomach with a kitchen knife. Suicide notes were found in the house.
A man and woman were found in a car in Sapporo. The car was in the shuttered parking garage of an apartment building, and carbon monoxide penetrated from the garage into the building. (UPI)
09:09, December 13, 2005
TOKYO: Three men and a woman were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in a car in Japan's latest suspected Internet suicide pact, police said yesterday.
The four a 39-year-old businessman, a 27-year-old unemployed man, a 25-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman were found in the car in Yabu in western Hyogo Prefecture on Sunday, a police spokesman said. The police found burned charcoal and a suicide note in the car owned by the businessman.
"Their parents and relatives told investigators that the four people didn't know one another before," the spokesman said. "We are looking into the case to see if they got to know one another through the Internet and decided to commit suicide," he said.
Just two weeks ago, Japanese police said they suspect group suicides claimed the lives of eight people in separate incidents across Japan.
Dozens of Japanese people have killed themselves since late last year after forming pacts on Internet suicide sites to support one another as they die. They usually seal the windows of their cars and induce carbon monoxide poisoning by lighting charcoal burners, which are rarely used in modern Japan.
Japan has the highest suicide rate in the industrialized world, with 24.1 suicides per 100,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization.
This year Japan announced a crackdown on Internet sites that spread information on group suicides.
14:12, December 25, 2005
Four people were found dead on Sunday in a parked car near Tokyo, in an apparent group suicide, Kyodo News quoted police as saying.
Police saw a burning charcoal stove in the passenger car, where three men and a woman, seemingly in their 20s or 30s, were dead. The windows of the car were sealed from the inside.
A hunter found the car on Sunday morning, which was parked in an open space near a forest road in Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture.
The four people have yet to be identified, according to the police.
Japan has one of the highest suicide rates among wealthy countries. Earlier this month, eight people were found dead in separate incidents across Japan.
A minivan in which six bodies, five men and one woman, were discovered
Nine people have been found dead in parked cars in Japan in what appears to be the latest in a series of group suicides. The incidents took place near Tokyo, the Japanese capital.
Japanese police are investigating two separate incidents. In Saitama prefecture, just north of Tokyo, five men and one woman were found dead in an estate car. A police spokesman said that charcoal stoves were found in the car but declined to give further details. 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, 280 miles north of Tokyo. Again, charcoal stoves were found in the car. The three dead were undergoing treatment for mental illness and may have met in hospital, an Aomori police spokesman said.
The number of Japanese killing themselves in group suicides has risen in recent years. In many cases people meet through the Internet, although police declined to say whether this was the case with the six people in Saitama.
Ninety-one people died in group suicides in Japan last year.
In Britain, campaigners last year called for a ban on websites that promote suicide amid fears that Britain is in danger of embracing a similar "suicide cult".
Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:38 AM GMT
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 cases.
Five men and one woman were found dead in a station wagon in Saitama prefecture, just north of Tokyo, a police spokesman said. 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 said. 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 Saitama.
Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 15:24 GMT
Four people have been found dead in central Japan in the third suspected group suicide in less than a week.
The bodies of the three men and a woman were found in a parked car in Shizuoka prefecture, 150km (93 miles) west of Tokyo, a police spokesman said.
The windows of the car had been sealed with tape, and there were several charcoal burners inside.
The bodies of nine people were discovered last week in two separate cases of suspected group suicide.
The four people involved in the latest incident were all believed to be in their 30s. The car in which they were found was parked on a lonely mountain road.
Last Friday, the asphyxiated bodies of five men and a woman were found in a car at Chichibu, near Tokyo, while three more bodies were found near Hirosaki.
Police are investigating whether the Chichibu six met via the internet.
Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and internet pacts are thought to appeal to those who are scared to die alone.
The Associated Press
March 21, 2006 10:04 AM
TOKYO - Japanese police found three bodies inside a parked van in what is believed to be the latest example of a recent trend of group suicides, police said Tuesday.
Two men and a woman were found next to burned charcoal in a van parked in a mountainous area in Sumoto city, western Japan, according to local police.
The three, who appeared to range in age from their 20s to 40s, probably died of asphyxia in a suspected suicide, police said. Sumoto is on Awaji island in Japan's Inland Sea, about 272 miles west of Tokyo.
There has been a recent spate of group suicides in Japan by people who meet over the Internet.
The van was parked about 13 miles away from the site of another group suicide Monday in which two women died and one was seriously injured.
So far this month, at least 21 people have been found dead in six separate cases of group suicide in Japan, with at least four cases believed to have involved people who met on the Web.
Although Internet suicide pacts are not new, they have been most common in Japan, where the suicide rate is among the highest in the industrialized world.
Last year, 91 people died in 34 Internet-linked suicide cases, an increase from 55 people in 19 cases the year before, the National Police Agency said. The number of Internet suicide pacts has almost tripled from 2003, when the agency started keeping records.
Tuesday March 21, 2006 9:46 PM
By HIROKO TABUCHI
Associated Press Writer
CHICHIBU, Japan (AP) - The dirt is still black with charcoal on the mountain road where police found six bodies slumped inside a van, a stove still smoking inside - another in a spate of group suicides officials believe can be traced to the Internet.
Although few Web sites advertise themselves as suicide sites, a search for the words ``Shall we die together?'' in Japanese turns up pages of links to chat rooms spilling over with death wishes and ideas on how best to commit suicide.
The five men and one woman, all in their 20s and from six different prefectures across Japan, likely met over the Internet before dying together in a forested area 50 miles northwest of Tokyo, authorities said.
``We sprinkled rice here to honor their spirits,'' said Tsuru Kimura, 80, pointing to the white grains on several spots blackened with charcoal on the dirt road. Her son alerted police to the van March 10 on a tip-off from a passer-by, she said. ``I still don't understand why they had to die. And in a place like this?'' Kimura said.
Internet suicide pacts have occurred since at least the late 1990s in a number of countries, but they have been most common in Japan, where the suicide rate is among the industrialized world's highest. A record 91 people died in 34 Internet-linked suicide cases last year, up from 55 people in 19 cases in 2004, according to the latest figures from the National Police Agency. The number of Internet suicide pacts has almost tripled from 2003, when the agency started keeping records.
In March alone, at least 18 people have died in five separate cases of suspected Internet-linked group suicides in Japan - including three found dead Tuesday in western Japan.
In all those cases, the victims suffocated themselves inside cars using charcoal stoves, often sealing the windows with tape. Most of the dead have been in their 20s and 30s.
``Youngsters find that on Internet chat sites, they can talk about the most intimate of issues with total strangers - including vague notions of wanting to die,'' says Mafumi Usui, a psychology professor at Niigata Seiryo University. ``Most of them aren't serious (about killing themselves). But say one chat participant starts suggesting concrete plans... That's when the Internet can encourage suicide,'' Usui said.
A chat room entry dated Feb. 9 and signed by a participant who identified herself as AQUOS reads: ``I live in Kyushu, and I have everything ready except a car."
``I'm willing to go anywhere to die. I don't want to fail - I want to die with certainty,'' another chat room participant, Haru, replied two days later. There are no further entries from the two.
Alarmed politicians have suggested suicide sites be regulated or shut down. Last October, police launched an online crackdown with the cooperation of Internet service providers, urging them to report to police the name and address of anyone who appeared to be considering suicide. Since then, authorities have intervened in 12 cases, preventing 14 people from killing themselves, national police said last month.
But Yoshikuni Masuyama, an official at the IT crimes unit of the National Police Agency, had trouble explaining the recent surge in Internet-linked deaths. ``We're baffled,'' Masuyama said. ``We still hope police intervention will have some effect. But of course, it's difficult to prevent all cases.''
Some experts warn the crackdown will drive suicidal people to use more obscure or overseas Internet providers, which are almost impossible to regulate. Others argue the sites, by allowing suicidal people to share their concerns, prevent more deaths than they facilitate.
Other experts suggest the Japanese are influenced by a traditional reverence of suicide. In feudal Japan, ritual suicide was considered an honorable death under the samurai warrior ethic. ``Chushingura,'' a saga about 47 loyal samurai who avenged their master's death and then committed mass suicide in 18th century Japan, has been made into countless movies and TV dramas.
``Japanese see suicide as tragic, yet beautiful or somehow sincere,'' said Usui, adding that was perhaps why so many used charcoal to die. Through Internet chat sites, ``young Japanese have learned asphyxia doesn't damage the body, he said. ``They think it allows them to die beautifully.''
March 23, 2006
(AP) - Police found two women dead and one man in critical condition inside a car in an apparent group suicide attempt, officials said Monday. Two women, both in their twenties, were found dead in a passenger car parked in a remote mountainous area in Awaji, western Japan, local policeman Yoshikazu Murata said.
A used charcoal stove was found inside the car, and the two may have died of asphyxia, according to Murata, who said police suspected suicide.
A man, also in his twenties, was rushed to a hospital but remained unconscious, Murata said. Authorities had yet to identify the three, he said.
There has been a recent spate of group suicides in Japan set up between strangers over the Internet -- though it wasn't immediately clear how the latest group met. In March alone, 13 people have been found dead in three separate cases of Internet-linked group suicide in Japan, excluding the latest case.
On March 10, six people were found dead from asphyxiation in a van in a forested area outside of Tokyo. Police thought the six -- from different parts of Japan -- met in an Internet chat room.>
Internet suicide pacts have occurred since at least the late 1990s, and have been reported in a number of countries. But in Japan, where the suicide rate is among the industrialized world's highest, officials are particularly worried about the trend.
A record 91 people died in 34 Internet-linked suicide cases last year, up from 55 people in 19 cases in 2004, the National Police Agency reported last month.
TOKYO Authorities suspect that two bodies found in a parked car in central Japan are another case in a spate of suicide pacts forged over the Internet.
A police official says a passer-by discovered the bodies of two men, aged 31 and 22, in a mountainous area 45 miles west of Tokyo. Two charcoal burners were found inside the vehicle.
The official says the men appeared to have met over the Internet and may have formed a suicide pact, but he didn't elaborate.
The deaths follow a string of similar cases in Japan.
In March alone, at least 21 people were found dead in six separate cases of group suicide in Japan, with at least four cases thought to have involved people who made contact on the Web.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
YAMAGUCHI (Kyodo) Three bodies were discovered in a minivan in a parking lot in the city of Yamaguchi, police said Saturday.
Burned charcoal was found in the vehicle. Two men -- a 33-year-old from Shimane Prefecture and another appearing to be 25 to 35 -- and a 33-year-old woman from Kumamoto Prefecture apparently committed suicide together, the police said.
A passerby found the minivan at around 6:40 p.m. Friday and notified the police. The vehicle was locked and its windows were sealed with tape from the inside.
A note believed to have been written by the three was found in the back seat.
Three women in their early 20s have been found dead in what appears to be Japan's latest group suicide.
Tokyo - Three women in their early 20s were found dead in a vehicle filled with carbon monoxide on Friday, in what appeared to be Japan's latest group suicide, said Japanese police.
Police found three charcoal burners in a sealed mini-van parked in a quiet area of western Tokyo.
A police spokesperson said one of the woman was a 24-year-old company employee who had been missing for days.
The other two were also in their early 20s. The three women's links to each other were unclear.
No suicide note was found in the vehicle, but news reports said that one of the woman had left a note at home, prompting her parents to contact police. The number of suicide pacts is growing in Japan, with many of the pacts arranged between strangers on the internet.
The most popular pact method is lighting charcoal burners in sealed cars, often near peaceful sites such as mountains and forests.
Police said that 91 people died in online suicide pacts in 2005, up 65% from 2004.
Three men were found dead in an apparent group suicide in a parked car in central Japan, a police official said Sunday.
A mountain climber notified police Sunday morning after finding a car parked on a forest road in Shizuoka with the three inside, local police official Yuji Ishizu said, adding that police suspect the men died in a suicide pact.
Ishizu said three charcoal stoves were found in the sealed car. The stoves, which emit carbon monoxide fumes that cause asphyxia in sealed areas, are typically used in group suicides in Japan.
One of the three victims was identified as a man in his 30s from Shizuoka, but the police have yet to identify the other two, believed to be in their 20s or 30s, the official said.
Shizuoka is about 150 kilometers (95 miles) west of Tokyo.
October 30, 2006
SEOUL -- Three South Koreans who forged a suicide pact over the Internet have been found dead in a park, police said Monday.
The three in their 20s and mid-30s were found lying on benches in Seoul's Namsan Park Sunday. An empty bottle of cyanide was found next to their bodies along with a suicide note.
They had met and plotted their deaths on a Web site before killing themselves, according to news reports confirmed by police.
Police have detained a 19-year-old female college student for allegedly assisting the suicide.
The woman, identified only as Moon, told police how the four got together, purchased cyanide, and wrote a joint will. She said that she changed her mind at the last minute after a phone call from her boyfriend.
The will released by police said: "We gathered here only to end our lives and swear that we have no personal relationship with each other. We do not want autopsies to find the cause of our death."
Police believe that debts, divorce issues, and a failure to secure admission to college helped prompt the suicides.
A total of 14 people including the latest three have killed themselves this year after visiting suicide Web sites, according to figures from a suicide prevention organization.
South Korea's suicide rate was the highest among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last year, with 24.7 in every 100,000 killing themselves.
"The number of those who commit suicide together after discussion through the Internet has been increasing," Yonsei University psychiatrist Lee Hong-Shik told reporters.
A survey conducted by Lee last year showed that 47 percent of teenagers and 38 percent of those in their 20s had visited suicide Web sites. Over 20 percent of them said that they had been tempted to commit suicide afterwards, Lee said.
Suicide Web site operators can be punished but many have dodged government supervision by changing the wording or the address of their pages.
The Associated Press
February 18, 2007
TOKYO: Four people were found dead inside a parked car in an apparent group suicide in western Japan, police said Monday.
A driver notified police Sunday that he saw a car with four people inside and a box of charcoal outside in the mountains in Kyoto, according to local police official Yukinori Kumamoto.
When the police arrived, all four people two men and two women were dead and there were two charcoal stoves inside the car, Kumamoto said.
Police suspect the four, believed to be in their 30s and 50s, committed suicide and officials were investigating, Kumamoto said, adding that their relations to each other were not clear yet.
Kyoto is 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
Japanese police say they have saved at least four people who had been planning to commit suicide with the help of internet providers.
Last year police asked internet companies in Japan to hand over information on people they believed might be about to kill themselves, on the basis of notes they had posted on internet sites.
The National Police Agency says it has managed to trace 64 people who had posted online, including an individual who left a note on the Education Ministry's website.
Four were saved when police arrived at the location where the individuals were planning to kill themselves, while one was found dead.
Police say they managed to persuade 59 of the remaining 39 individuals to abandon their suicide plans, and say the remaining 20 were hoaxes.
The NPA says information is now regularly handed over by many internet providers, in accordance with guidelines on information disclosure drawn up in 2005.
But it says some providers, including the operator of ''2 Channel'' -- the largest online bulletin board in Japan -- have refused to comply.
Tuesday, 17 April, 2007
TOKYO: Five bodies were found in a minivan in rural Japan after a suspected suicide pact, Japanese police said yesterday. The three men and two women, believed to be in their 20s, apparently died from inhaling charcoal fumes - a common suicide method here.
Their vehicle was parked on a river bank in Yasu, a town near Lake Biwa some 350km west of Tokyo, police said. There were three charcoal burners inside the car. The circumstances suggested that it was a case of group suicide using charcoal burners, local police spokesman Takao Higuchi said by telephone. We are yet to ascertain the identities of the dead but a drivers license was found on one of them, he said. The river bank is in the countryside and almost deserted.
In the vehicle, police found a note addressed to family members which read, Thank you, Jiji Press reported. The police spokesman could not immediately confirm the report.
Japan has witnessed a growing number of suicide pacts among groups of strangers who meet on the Internet. Such people have often chosen scenic spots to poison themselves with charcoal, which emits carbon monoxide when burned.
Last month, a 38-year-old man was sentenced to death for murdering three people with whom he made separate suicide pacts over the Internet.
Japan has one of the worlds highest suicide rates.
The Associated Press April 21, 2007
TOKYO: Three young Japanese have been found dead inside a sealed passenger car in an apparent group suicide, a local police official said Saturday, in the second such multi-suicide this week.
A passerby called police after finding the bodies of the two men and one woman in the vehicle at a parking lot in Mishima, a city in Shizuoka prefecture (state) late Friday afternoon, police official Iwao Irie said.
The car doors were locked, the windows sealed with tape and a charcoal stove was inside, leading investigators to suspect suicide, Irie said. Charcoal stoves, which emit carbon monoxide fumes that cause asphyxia in sealed areas, are typically used in group suicides in Japan.
A note was also found near the man in the driver's seat that read, "I want to die," Irie said. The man was a 30-year old from Kawasaki city near Tokyo, Irie said, while declining to give his name. Investigators were still working to determine the identities of the woman and the other man, who both appeared to be between mid-20s and mid-30s, he added.
Japan has seen a spate of group suicides in recent years, many involving young people who meet on Internet chat sites and travel across Japan to kill themselves together in deserted places.
April 24, 2007
INTERNET suicide pacts remain rare, but the disturbing trend has increased dramatically since the first known case in Japan in 2000. Hundreds of cases of internet-related suicide have now been recorded in Asia, Europe, Australia and the United States.
As appears to have been the case with the Melbourne teenagers Stephanie Gestier and Jodie Gater, a small number of people leave messages on internet sites before attempting suicide.
MySpace - the matrix of web chatrooms used by the two girls - has also become a grieving place for friends and relatives of people who have died, with impromptu, collaborative obituaries often springing into existence within hours of a death.
Stephanie Gestier's mother, Juli, was among the mourners to post a message on the internet yesterday. "Stephanie, why didn't you tell me you were so upset? Why didn't you just come home?" her message read.
When the South Australian teenager Carly Ryan was found dead in February, her MySpace account was flooded with messages from friends - many of them members of the same Goth and Emo subcultures as the two Melbourne girls who were found dead on Sunday.
Following Britain's first internet suicide pact in 2005, in which two strangers met online and died side by side, the British Government moved to make chatrooms that were deemed to be risky harder to access.
The world's fifth most popular website, MySpace has more than 50 million registered users. A website called mydeathspace.com has been set up by users in San Francisco, operating independently of myspace.com, to record MySpace users who have died.
April 24, 2007
Jodie and Stephanie, pictured on My Space.
AT JUST 16 Jodie Gater and Stephanie Gestier appear to have made an unimaginable pact. On her MySpace web page Jodie had written: "let Steph and me b free."
Yesterday, a week after they disappeared, the bodies of the two girls were found in bushland on the outskirts of Melbourne. It is understood Jodie and Stephanie had hanged themselves, after first posting apparent farewell messages on the internet.
The two girls were part of a subculture known as emo, named after a type of music characterised by emotion and a confessional tone. Emo fans are stereotypically introverted, sensitive, moody and alienated, and are derided by other subcultures for self-pitying poetry commonly posted on MySpace.
The girls, students at Upwey High School in the city's far east, left their homes in Belgrave, in the Dandenong Ranges, at 9.30am on Sunday last week to meet friends. Last week, while pleading for information about his daughter, Robert Gater said she "seemed all very happy" as she left to go shopping with Stephanie in Ringwood.
The spot where they were found is in the Dandenong Ranges National Park and commands views across Melbourne to the city skyline. The bodies were found by a resident near his house, and police believe they had been dead for several days. The only evident clues to their frame of mind are contained in their internet postings.
Jodie had a MySpace page, titled "let Steph and me b free". An image of a glass full of absinthe and the words "let us blow your mind" were among simple decorations on the page.
The last message she posted on the site was dedicated to her boyfriend, Allan. "I luv you sooo soo much Allan, Miss u heaps and heaps xoxoxo I will always remember u," the teenager wrote.
A picture of Jodie and Allan kissing is posted next to the message.Jodie had last updated her page last Monday.
In an online message to her boyfriend last Christmas Eve Jodie wrote on his website: "I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not." Three days later she wrote to him again, attaching a picture of them kissing. "I would kill myself before I would wait all that long day. Then I won't feel that feeling and I won't ask myself how will I die? Who will kill me? I love you Allan."
Her own website also featured a flashing message saying "f--- this world/everything that you stand for/don't accept/ don't give a shit/don't ever judge me".
The words in the MySpace message are almost identical to the chorus of the song Surfacing by "nu-metal" band Slipknot.
On her website Jodie describes her friends as her heroes. "Also got to love my crazy friends for being there for me even when I'm being really annoying, a c--- or a complete stupid f--- that u would just wanna punch out. Thank you all so much guys, luv yas."
Last week friends posted messages urging the girls to make contact.
Yesterday a message read: "R.I.P. Jodie and Steph".
April 24, 2007
A DAY before they went missing, someone posted a final, mysterious message on the website of 16-year-old friends Jodie Gater and Stephanie Gestier. Brief and chilling, it read: "RIP Jodie & Steph".
It was posted on April 14, either by one of the girls or someone who had access to the private website for "bitchy", the all-girl band to which the two teenagers belonged. On the site Jodie and Stephanie talked about their fascination with the brooding "emo" subculture. With roots in the goth movement, emo is short for "emotional" and is known for its angst-ridden music and moody introspection.
The Melbourne girls vanished the next day after telling their parents they were going shopping. Now police are investigating the final message, discovered after Jodie and Stephanie were found hanged from the same tree in a national park in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, on Sunday.
But the girls' MySpace website records with tragic hindsight a spiral of depressive thoughts and seemingly suicidal poetry. In the months leading to the tragedy the teenagers had posted increasingly dismal messages on their site. From last December to February Jodie posted three odes to suicide, the second one titled Suicide in the Night.
It reads: "It's over for me, I can't take it! I hear it over and over again, it feels like it always rains."
Another of her MySpace messages read: "Let Steph n me b free."
Stephanie's website profile reads: "i dont wanna know how many friends you have cuz i dont have any anymore [sic]."
One posting on the "bitchy" website, dated March 23, said a new song would come out soon but "jodie wont be in the song though due to unfortunate events!!"
The final message known to have been posted by Jodie was to her boyfriend, next to a picture of them kissing. "I luv you sooo soo much Allan, Miss u heaps and heaps xoxoxo I will always remember u."
Last night Jodie's father warned parents to spend time with their children and to monitor their internet use. "Love the kids, give them a great big hug every now and then, and do family things with them," Robert Gater told the radio network Austereo. Don't let them get bottled up in a room that has a computer in it [so] that you don't see them for eight hours a day or something."
The girls' MySpace site was flooded yesterday with messages from their grieving friends. And Stephanie's mother, Judi, apparently logged on to the site in the early hours of yesterday.
"You had only just turned 16," her message read. "You were always such a quiet girl who spent time listening to music and surfing the internet. There is nothing that couldn't have been sorted out. You were my only child and can never be replaced. Bye bye, my little girl."
The mother's message said her husband had picked up Stephanie from the airport after she had been to visit her grandmother, before she went off with her friend. "I heard later that she had been involved in a fight on a train with some other girls and had taken off with her friend, who said she was going to kill herself," she wrote.
An adolescent psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, warned that the girls' friends and peer group were at risk of harming themselves. "Their friends, their entire year level and kids at those schools in the area who are maybe struggling with personal issues; yes, they're at risk. "These girls' deaths can act as a catalyst," Dr Carr-Gregg said.
At the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, a professor of adolescent health, George Patton, said the internet intensified the risk of "suicide contagion", a phenomenon first recognised upon the 1774 publication of Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, which featured a young man who killed himself over unrequited love. A spate of copycat suicides across Europe led to its banning in Germany, Italy and Denmark.
The often-repeated phenomenon was also seen in Japan in 1986 with the suicide of the pop star Yukiko Okada. "It's a huge issue in Japan," Professor Patton said. "We haven't seen so much of it yet in Australia. The internet is a powerful new medium where marginalised young people at the risk of suicide who might not otherwise meet are able to come into contact. It's providing content such as graphic self-harm sites which are potentially very dangerous to a lot of these young people. I think we have a real problem."
Internet suicides remain rare, but the trend has increased dramatically since the first known case in Japan in 2000. Hundreds more have been reported in Asia, Europe, Australia and the US.
MySpace is the world's fifth largest website, with more than 50 million members, who use it to express their feelings, often under pseudonyms, and talk to other members. It has also become a grieving place for bereaved friends and relatives of people, with impromptu, collaborative obituaries often springing into existence within hours of a death.
When the South Australian teenager Carly Ryan died in February her MySpace site was flooded with messages from friends - many of them members of the same goth and emo subcultures as the two Melbourne girls who were found dead on Sunday. Following Britain's first internet suicide pact in 2005, in which two strangers met online and died side by side, the British Government restricted access to chatrooms deemed risky.
The growing band of people who have posted suicide notes online - an act known colloquially as a MySpace suicide - has led to the US organisation Lifeline creating its own MySpace page.
Bands such as AFI and Dashboard Confessional have been associated with emo. The movement is often mocked by outsiders for the melodramatic introspection of its members.
Self-harm, a risk factor for suicide, has become common among adolescents, particularly girls in emo and goth cliques. Between one in 10 and one in 20 girls aged about 14 or 15 engaged in self-harm, Professor Patton said. Dr Carr-Gregg said it was simplistic to blame suicide on the subcultures and their emphasis on alienation and loneliness. "It's just one risk factor. There are key protection factors in between, such as friends, family, a sense of connectedness."
Both experts said it was important for parents to communicate with teenagers. "Don't let them disappear behind this emotional firewall called MSN [the chat network]," Dr Carr-Gregg said. Greg Holman, principal of the school the two girls attended, Upwey High in Melbourne, said the school was devastated and students were being offered counselling.
New York Times
By CHOE SANG-HUN
SEOUL, South Korea, May 22, 2007 From their nondescript sixth-floor office, Kim Hee-joo and five other social workers troll the Internet to combat a disturbing trend in South Korea: people using the Web to trade tips about suicide and, in some cases, to form suicide pacts. There are so many of them, said Mr. Kim, secretary general of the Korea Association for Suicide Prevention, a private counseling group working to decrease the number of suicides, which nearly doubled from 6,440 in 2000 to 12,047 in 2005, the last year for which government figures are available.
One of the recent Internet suicide pacts involved two women who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a one-room apartment south of Seoul. In another, five young men and women who made a pact over the Internet and had failed in two previous suicide attempts drove to a seaside motel to discuss more effective methods. There, one member of the group had a change of heart and slipped out to call the police.
Figures released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that South Koreas suicide rate stood at 18.7 per 100,000 people in 2002 up from 10.2 in 1985. In 2002, Japans rate was the same as South Koreas, but the rate in the United States was 10.2 per 100,000. Experts attribute the increase to the stresses of rapid modernization and the degradation of rural life, but they are also concerned that the Internet is contributing to the jump. South Korea has one of the worlds highest rates of broadband access and, as in Japan in recent years, the Internet has become a lethally efficient means of bringing together people with suicide on their minds.
In hardly more than a generation, South Korea has transformed itself from an agrarian society into an extremely competitive, technologically advanced economy where the pressure to succeed at school and work is intense. Meanwhile, the traditional support base, the family, is under pressure: divorce rates are at a record high. And guarantees of lifetime employment evaporated with the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s. In 2005, in the first rally of its kind, hundreds of high school students demonstrated in central Seoul, shouting, We arent study machines! They gathered to mourn 15 students from around the country who had killed themselves, apparently because of the intense pressure to succeed.
The government does not compile figures on how many suicides may have been inspired or aided by the Internet. But in an analysis of 191 group suicides reported in the news media from June 1998 to May 2006, Kim Jung-jin, a sociologist at Korea Nazarene University, found that nearly a third of the cases involved people who had formed suicide pacts through Internet chat sites.
In Korea, the Internet has been implicated not only for helping people get together to die, but also for widely sharing individuals suicidal thoughts. One well-known actress, Jeong Da-bin, 27, posted her thoughts on her Web site a day before killing herself on Feb. 10.
Under the title The End, she wrote: For no reason at all, I am going crazy with anger. Then, as if lightening had struck, all becomes quiet. Then the Lord comes to me. The Lord says I will be O.K. YES, I WILL BE O.K.
Counseling centers in Seoul said calls for help jumped in the days after her death.
Notes like Ms. Jeongs or ones that call for help in dying are not difficult to find on Internet bulletin boards in Korea. I really want to kill myself, said a Yahoo Korea Web posting in April by an anonymous teenager who complained of bullying at school and his parents pressure to improve his grades. I only have 30,000 won, or about $32, he wrote, adding: Can anyone sell me a suicide drug? I dont want a painful death like jumping from a high place.
In March a 28-year-old man who ran a suicide-related blog called Trip to Heaven was arrested on a charge of selling potassium cyanide to a 15-year-old boy he met via the Internet. The boy used the poison to kill himself.
Since 2005, Web portals, acting under pressure from civic groups, have banned words like suicide and death from the names of blogs. If a user keys in suicide, search engines display links to counseling centers at the top of their search results.
Also in 2005, the Korea Internet Safety Commission, a government watchdog on cyberspace, ordered the removal of 566 blogs, chat groups and Web postings that encouraged suicide, up sharply from 93 cases a year earlier. The figure declined to 147 in 2006 and rose again to 161 in the first four months of this year. The government is taking or discussing other measures to impede suicide as well.
Since nearly 40 percent of South Koreans who kill themselves do so by drinking pesticides or jumping, the government is considering making pesticides less toxic and is installing more barriers on rooftops and bridges.
The Seoul subway system began erecting glass walls on platforms after 95 people, some wearing black plastic bags over their heads, threw themselves in front of subway trains in 2003, according to transit officials. Doors in the glass wall open only when trains pull into the station.
Kim Hee-joos counseling group discovers an average of 100 suicide-related Web sites each month and asks portals to delete them. A few are serious enough that the staff alerts the police to possible violations of laws against assisting suicide or trading in hazardous substances.
People used to use blog names like Lets Die Together, said Mr. Kim. Now theyre more careful. Once theyve met each other they shut down the site and switch to e-mail and cellphones. You need a lot of searching and hunches and luck to track down these people.
Recently Mr. Kims team discovered a blog called Life Is Tough, described by its creator as a meeting place for people contemplating suicide. The site attracted several people who left their cellphone numbers and e-mail addresses to link up with others who wanted to take the trip together.
The police are now searching for the blogs creator, who could face charges of aiding suicide, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison on conviction. People are social animals, said Jason Lee, director of the Metropolitan Mental Health Center in Seoul. Some apparently want a companion even when committing suicide."
October 11, 2007
Police in Japan have arrested a man on suspicion of murdering a woman who had paid him to kill her after contacting him through the internet.
Kazunari Saito allegedly fed a large quantity of sleeping pills to his victim, Sayaka Nishizawa, before suffocating her at her apartment in April, local media said.
Nishizawa, 21, had contacted her killer days earlier via his mobile phone website, which he had set up to sell sleeping pills to people who were contemplating suicide.
But in a bizarre variation on Japan's cyber-suicide trend, Nishizawa reportedly paid Mr Saito 200,000 yen to kill her, imploring him to stay with her until he was certain she was dead.
Police initially attributed her death to suicide, but launched a criminal investigation after noticing that her keys and mobile phone were missing. They tracked Mr Saito down after examining Nishizawa's email correspondence.
Reports said the woman had sent a message to Mr Saito's website in early April, saying: "I want to die. How can I die?"
Mr Saito, an electrician, replied: "I will give you lots of sleeping pills. I will help you."
Mr Saito, 33, allegedly visited her apartment in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, in mid-April and fed her 20 to 30 sleeping pills before suffocating her with a plastic bag. Her body was discovered by her father four days later. It was not immediately clear why Nishizawa had wanted to die.
Mr Saito confessed to the killing while being questioned about illegally supplying sleeping pills to other visitors to his website.
"She asked me to do it," he was quoted as saying. "She asked me to watch over her until the end, so I killed her."
He set up the website in June 2006 and continued to post messages up to 10 days before his arrest. He offered to "do anything" for money, including murder and drug-assisted suicide, and asked users to email him on his mobile phone.
Websites aimed at people contemplating suicide first appeared in Japan about five years ago. Although people who kill themselves together after meeting online account for a tiny proportion of the 30,000 Japanese who commit suicide every year, police are disturbed by the apparent appeal of the websites to young people and women.
In March last year, the bodies of nine people "most of who were in their 20s" were found in two suspected group suicides in the space of a week.
October 12, 2007
TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Police in Japan arrested a man who ran an Internet suicide site for allegedly killing a woman who paid him to do so, an official said Thursday.
Kazunari Saito, a 33-year-old electrician, was arrested Wednesday for allegedly giving Sayaka Nishizawa, 21, sleeping pills and suffocating her in April, a police official in Kanagawa said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing policy. Nishizawa contacted the suspect through an Internet suicide site he hosted and paid him $1,700, according to the official.
Nishizawa's father found her body on April 16 in her apartment in Kanagawa, just south of Tokyo. Police had been investigating the case after a note suggesting suicide was found, but her cell phone and keys were missing, Kyodo News agency reported.
The suspect told police the woman had asked him to "see through" the dying process, Kyodo said.
Saito set up his site last year to give tips on how to commit suicide, the agency said. Officials didn't immediately say if the Web site was still working.
According to the Yomiuri, Japan's largest daily, the woman wrote him in early April saying: "I want to die, how can I die?"
Saito wrote back: "I will give you lots of sleeping pills. I will help."
(Insert-Oct.13 from Yomiuri Shimbun): According to the investigation, after exchanging e-mails with Nishizawa, Saito visited her room on April 12 because she had asked him to be present when she died. She reportedly asked Saito: "I want to die--how can I do it? Did you bring the drug?" He is believed to have then handed her the sleeping pills and to have told her to take them.
After taking the pills, Nishizawa reportedly said to him, "I'm still not..." as she began to lose consciousness, after which Saito covered her head with a plastic bag and suffocated her, according to the police.
It was not clear why the woman needed help to kill herself.
Japan's suicide rate is among the highest in the industrialized world, and the number of people taking their own lives topped 30,000 for a ninth straight year in 2006.
October 24, 2007 11:23 p.m. EST
Paul Icamina - AHN News Writer
Kumagaya, Japan (AHN) - Two women in their early 20s were found dead inside a car after they apparently gassed themselves in Japan's latest suicide pact, police said Thursday.
Investigators discovered two empty bottles that contained a bathwater additive and detergent, leading them to suspect that the two mixed the two liquids to generate toxic hydrogen sulfide gas.
The two elementary school classmates were identified as 21- and 22-year-old women from Namegawa, Saitama Prefecture.
The two women were found Tuesday morning inside a car parked near the bank of the Arakawa River in the Kawara-Aketo district of Kumagaya. "I got sick and tired of thinking about my future," said a note found in the vehicle.
A suicide Website carried a story about how to use toxic gas to commit suicide, police said.
In a related development, police yesterday confirmed that a suicide web site was involved in the deaths of four people whose bodies were found in a car on Monday in Hokkaido.
At least two of the four people found dead -- an Osaka man and a woman from Saitama Prefecture -- came in contact through an online suicide site, police said. The other two victims, two women from Hokkaido, used a similar means to get in touch.
October 30, 2007
FOUR bodies were found in a car filled with carbon monoxide in what was suspected to be Japan's latest group suicide.
Police said yesterday some woodcutters found the bodies inside the car parked in forests north-east of Tokyo.
The three men, 20, 22 and 38, and a woman, 30, were all from Tokyo and the surrounding area.
Investigators found three charcoal burners in the back of the car, police said.
Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates, and there has been a growing number of suicide pacts among strangers who meet on the internet.