Family dies for 'weirdo' guru

Mainichi Shimbun / August 18, 2000

SENNAN, Osaka - An elderly man and his sister apparently let her five children starve to death here as part of a bizarre religious ritual, police said Thursday.

Takao Wakasa, 66, and his 64-year-old sister, Akiko Wakasa, were found late Wednesday night in a state of near exhaustion lying down next to the badly decomposed bodies of the sister's four daughters and a son. Wakasa apparently told police that he had allowed the five adult children to die "so that God could purify them."

Police are poised to lay charges on the elderly siblings once they have sufficiently recovered from their exhaustion, which is believed to have been brought on because they had starved themselves over the past 20 or so days. However, police are also suspicious as to why the oldest of the seven people holed up in the house were the last to die of starvation and will probably probe the matter further.

Police identified the bodies in the house as belonging to Suiko Wakasa, 41, her sisters Kaoru, 38, Eiko, 29, Hiromi, 28, and their 27-year-old brother, Minoru. The Wakasa children are believed to have been dead for some time and their bodies were grossly decomposed.

A neighbor said that the reclusive Wakasa family was known locally for being a bunch of "religious weirdos." Neighbors spoke of massive holes dug in the backyard of the Wakasa family home, which appeared to have some religious sig-nificance. The home was also filled with altars. Akiko Wakasa is believed to have told a neighbor that "God has descended to Earth and I have become a guru."

Police said the sister also regarded her brother as a mystical figure. "Takao is a master. He commanded that we should neither eat nor drink at all because of higher religious achievement," police quoted her as saying. Police were alerted to the family when another member of the clan contacted them and said they were worried that the Sennan home was inordinately quiet and smelled disgusting. Police investigated the home on Wednesday and made the ghastly find.

Police said that when they discovered the bodies of the Wakasa children, the brother and sister were lying down beside them and took some time to answer police questions. Investigators believe the elderly siblings had also prepared themselves for death.

Investigators said the five bodies were found on futons placed in two adjacent rooms of the Wakasa home. Police said the elderly pair had not eaten for some time. They added that storm windows on the Wakasa home had been sealed shut. Combined with the vile reek from the badly decomposed bodies, police said the smell of the home made it barely possible to breathe.

"When we arrived at the house, we were overwhelmed by the powerful stench coming out of it," one police officer said. "We immediately knew from the strong odor that somebody must be dead. The stench was unbelievable because there was no air conditioner in the house."

Takao Wakasa has apparently told police that he had not eaten for two months. Police added that Wakasa said his nieces and nephew had started to starve themselves 20 days before he gave up eating. Investigators plan to probe the Wakasas further once their condition has improved

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