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World - Asia/Pacific

Teen-age girl confesses she poisoned classmates in Japan

graphic September 8, 1998
Web posted at: 11:34 a.m. EDT (1534 GMT)

TOKYO (CNN) -- Tokyo police said a 15-year-old junior high school girl confessed Tuesday to an August 26 poisoning that left one of her classmates hospitalized in serious condition.

The girl admitted she mailed bottles of cresol, a highly lethal disinfectant, to her teacher and 26 classmates, police said. Hand-written letters with the bottles, which were mailed to homes, said the brown liquid was a diet drink that had to be taken in one gulp immediately after opening.

All but one of the recipients refrained from drinking the toxic liquid. That student, a 14-year-old boy, suffered a badly burned throat after drinking the poison.

Police believe it was a copycat attack, one of a string of poisonings that have plagued Japan this summer, killing five people and sickening dozens more. The first case was in July, when four people died after eating arsenic-laced curry at a community festival.

Police on Tuesday quoted the girl as telling them: "There was so much ruckus in the papers and on TV (about the poisonings). I did it as a prank. The cresol has such a strong smell, I didn't expect anybody would drink it."

The girl's principal expressed amazement that she might have tried to harm others, describing her as bright, courteous and diligent in her studies. He told police she had complained of bullying by her classmates earlier this year, but he said school authorities had intervened to stop it.

Japanese education authorities also have expressed shock at the crime and were circulating an advisory to schools to prevent similar incidents from recurring.

A police spokesman declined to say whether the student had been taken into custody. Since she is a minor, authorities must decide whether to put her under probationary supervision at home or to hold her at a juvenile facility.

Police investigate possible new poisoning

Investigators are trying to determine if there has been another case of mass poisoning in Japan, after 14 high school students were admitted to a hospital in Yamanashi prefecture Tuesday.

Police in Yamanashi -- about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Tokyo -- told CNN that the students had been drinking from several bottles of tea before they became ill.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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