Japanese Man Sentenced to Death for 3 'Suicide Web Site' Murders

A Japanese man was sentenced to death Wednesday for murdering three people he lured through a suicide Web site by offering to die with them, a court official said.

Hiroshi Maeue, 38, agreed to a death pact with a 25-year-old office worker he met on a suicide Web site, but instead strangled her in a parked car and disposed of her body in western Japan in 2005, according to a police statement.

He also killed a 14-year-old boy and a 21-year-old university student in the same year, also by luring them with promises to die together, police said.

Maeue was sentenced to death on charges of murder and disposing bodies illegally, according to an Osaka District Court official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

Maeue pleaded guilty to the three murders but has appealed his death sentence, Kyodo News agency reported.

Suicide Web sites have been used by dozens of Japanese in recent years to plot group suicides. A record 91 people killed themselves in 34 Internet-linked suicide pacts in 2005, almost triple the number in 2003, when the National Police Agency started compiling statistics.

The sites host chat rooms with death wishes and postings on how best to take your own life. They appear to be frequented by young people who are troubled by bullying, romantic breakups or abusive family members.

Victims typically die from asphyxiation by lighting charcoal stoves inside a sealed car.