The young poisoner confesses

The following brief article was in Saturday’s Japan Time.

SHIZUOKA (Kyodo) A 17-year-old girl admitted at the Shizuoka Family Court that she poisoned her mother with thallium, reversing a denial she made following her arrest in October, sources close to the case said Friday.

“I made my mother take thallium,” the sources quoted the girl as telling the court. Thallium is a highly toxic substance used in rat poison and other pesticides. The mother is in a coma.

The family court will decide by next Tuesday whether to send her back to prosecutors to face criminal charges or to send her to a juvenile correctional facility.

The girl, a prefectural high school student, was arrested Oct. 31 on suspicion of attempting to kill her 48-year-old mother at their home in Izumonokuni, Shizuoka Prefecture, by putting thallium in her food between August and October that year.

The girl’s name is being withheld because she is a minor.

Unfortunately, the Kyodo piece leaves out pretty much everything that makes this story so grimly fascinating.

What they don’t say is that the girl had been poisoning her mother in emulation of Graham Young, whose real life story of experimentation with poisoning schoolmates and relatives as a teenager was made into a movie called The Young Poisoner’s Handbook, which I rather enjoyed when I saw it several years ago without knowing that it was based so closely on a true story.

To make the story even more disturbing, the girl had kept an anonymous blog which included details on the progress of her mother’s condition as she was slowly being poisoned. While she never quite said that she was responsible for her mother’s condition, someone who had read the journals of her earlier experiments with using poison on rodents would probably be able to draw the correct conclusion from her disquietingly cold tone.

The Times (UK, not NY) has a more extensive and rather good article about this story from a few months ago, shortly after the girl was arrested. The end of the article includes the following brief excerpts from the girl’s journal, as well as some stats on Graham Young.


July 3
“Let me introduce a book: Graham Young’s diary on killing with poison. The autobiography of a man I respect. He murdered someone at the age of 14.”

September 4
“To kill a living creature. The moment of sticking a knife into something. The warmth of the blood. The little sigh. It is all a comfort to me.”

September 26
“My mother will go to hospital tomorrow and nobody has yet found out what the cause is. To my regret, she is not covered by good insurance, so life will be a little difficult.”

“I took a photo of her today as I did yesterday. My brother said I had a penetrating stare and that he was horrified.”

“According to my aunt, my mother has started having hallucinations. She seems to be suffering from insects that don’t exist or white shadows by the door.”

* As a child he was fascinated with poisons and their effects, and the Nazis, becoming a worshipper of Hitler

* In 1961, at the age of 14, he started to poison members of his family, enough to make them violently ill

* In 1962 his stepmother died of a lethal dose. Young was arrested and jailed for 15 years for the attempted murder of his father, sister and friend

* On his release in 1971, he found a job and poisoned several co-workers, killing two of them. He was convicted in 1972 and given life

* He was dubbed the Teacup Poisoner but wanted to be known as the world’s poisoner. He died in 1990

* The film The Young Poisoner’s Handbook (1995) was based on him

Now, the girl’s blog was of course erased from the web server upon its public discovery after her arrest, but luckily for us the administrators did a terrible job of cleaning up after themselves, and some wonderful Japanese netizen used a combination of various search engines and caches to reconstruct the entirety (or at least close to it) of both of the girl’s journals.

If you have the ability to read Japanese and a taste for the macabre, a mirror of the original journals as well as a collection of other materials related to the case can be found here.

I’ve been thinking about translating them ever since I discovered the site a while back, but since I haven’t done it yet I shouldn’t make any promises.

5 thoughts on “The young poisoner confesses”

  1. Hm, I wonder if this story has been worked into any TV shows recently… It sounds like a great plot for Tales from the Crypt, the only difference being that on the show the mother would have been an avid reader of the blog the whole time without even realizing she was the victim until it was too late.

  2. I want to write a play about this case but because I don’t read japanese am finding it hard to get enough research material. Perhaps I will have luck soon if someone does some translating. hint hint

Comments are closed.