Man arrested for killing newly-married wife with nicotine for death benefit

By Lim Chang-won Posted : March 28, 2018, 12:51 Updated : March 28, 2018, 12:51

[Courtesy of the Korea Customs Service]

SEOUL -- A 22-year-old man was arrested Wednesday for killing her wife with a lethal dose of nicotine during their honeymoon in Japan to get her death benefit, police said.

Police in the southern city of Sejong said the man was accused of killing his 19-year-old wife during their honeymoon in Osaka on April 25 last year in an attempt to claim her insurance money worth 150 million won (140,187 US dollars).

He allegedly used a crude liquid of nicotine for his murder and reported to Japanese police that his wife committed suicide. The body was cremated in Japan on consent from her family.

The man argued he helped his wife to commit suicide, but police arrested him, based on his diary that contained a homicide plan and also on the outcome of an autopsy from Japanese investigators. If convicted, it would be the country's second murder case using nicotine, a highly unusual weapon that's difficult to detect in a dead body.

In 2016, a 47-year-old woman was arrested for conspiring with her lover to kill her 53-year-old husband with a lethal dose of nicotine. With no concrete evidence, the case was initially seen as a perfect crime as the woman inherited assets from her husband and an insurance payment of about 80 million won.

Investigators, however, got suspicious because they could not find a clear reason for the sudden death, and an autopsy revealed a high amount of nicotine from the husband who had never smoked, as well as zolpidem, a sedative primarily used for the treatment of insomnia. A district court sentenced the woman to life imprisonment in September last year.

Nicotine, a plant alkaloid which works quickly when used with a sedative, could be a lethal poison, but it has rarely been used as a reliable weapon. Lethal amounts of nicotine need to be ingested, absorbed or injected.

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