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Nine dead in Japan, apparent group suicide
Updated: 2005-02-05 22:46

TOKYO - Nine bodies were found in two cars in central Japan in what appeared to be the country's latest group suicides, police said Saturday.

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 60 miles apart.

Japan has been the scene of a slew 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 the any of those found Saturday knew one another beforehand or whether they met on the Web.

Of those found near Kanagawa farms, five hailed from different parts of the Tokyo metropolitan area, while one was from an area further west, Morishita said. The police were still trying to contact their relatives Saturday afternoon.

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've 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 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.

Suicides in Japan hit a record high in 2003, exceeding 34,000.

Officials have blamed a decade-long economic slump for an increasing number of people killing themselves.

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