Family who kept remains of dead artist for WEEKS won't be prosecuted
10th November 2021

Japanese family who kept mummified remains of dead artist, 49, in their home for six WEEKS before being caught because they ‘smelled of dead bodies’ will NOT be prosecuted

  • The body of Rina Yasutake was found at a house in Helmsley in September 2018
  • She was in an advanced state of decomposition after being kept for six weeks
  • Police were tipped off after a pharmacist said her siblings ‘smelled of death’ 
  • Judge ruled on Tuesday that the charges against her relatives Michiko Yasutake, 78, Yoshika Yasutake, 55, and Takahiro Yasutake, 49, would lie on file

A Japanese family who were accused of hiding the ‘mummified’ remains of their relative in a bedroom for six weeks after her death will not be prosecuted.

Rina Yasutake, 49, a talented artist thought to have attended Cambridge University, was found lying on a mattress in a terraced cottage in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, in September 2018.

She was already in an advanced state of decomposition and was kept for up to six weeks after her death by her mother Michiko Yasutake, 78, sister Yoshika Yasutake, 55, and brother Takahiro Yasutake, 49.

North Yorkshire Police officers made the discovery after being tipped off by local pharmacy staff, who said woman’s brother and sister had been buying large amounts of surgical spirits and ‘smelled of dead bodies’, the court was told.

Michiko, Yoshika and Takahiro pleaded not guilty to preventing the lawful and decent burial of a dead body without lawful excuse in October last year.

But Sean Morris, the recorder of York, ruled on Tuesday that the charges against the three defendants should lie on file.

‘These three defendants suffer from an extremely rare mental affliction which has created a unique situation for the criminal courts,’ the judge said.

Rina Yasutake, 49, a talented artist thought to have attended Cambridge University, was found lying on a mattress in a terraced cottage in Helmsley, North Yorkshire in September 2018

The Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence at York Crown Court and Jonathan Sandiford QC said it was not in the public interest to pursue a trial.

At a court hearing in October 2019, prosecutor Sarah Tyrer said police found Rina’s remains after a pharmacist at Helmsley Surgery Medical Centre told police she had ‘grave concerns’ about the amount of surgical spirit a Japanese couple was buying.

She added: ‘Reference had been made that they were using it for cleansing an individual called Rina Yasutake.

‘The pharmacist noticed – and I quote – that they smelled of dead bodies.

‘Later that same day the police attended the address and in one of the bedrooms at the premises they found the deceased lying on a mattress in an advanced state of decomposition to the point of apparent mummification.’

It is believed that Rina had been dead for around six weeks before she was found. North Yorkshire Police did not disclose any details of how Rina died.

A major police operation was launched in Helmsley after her remains were found, with police in forensic suits sifting through the property for days in September 2018.

Local people described the family as ‘reclusive’ and many were not aware that Rina lived at the address as she was never seen in the town.

On Tuesday, Sandiford said any sentence following a trial would have been restricted to a supervision order or an absolute discharge.

The charge they faced was an offence under common law which in some cases can be punished by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

She was kept for up to six weeks by her mother Michiko Yasutake, 78, sister Yoshika Yasutake, 55, and brother Takahiro Yasutake, 49 (all pictured). On Tuesday, a judge ruled that the charges against the three defendants should lie on file

Judge Morris ruled that the charges will be left on file under the understanding that the three defendants would accept any welfare checks or visits by social services or the police.

Craig Hassall, QC, for the Yasutakes, said: ‘All three defendants consent to that order.’

He said his decision to allow the case to lie on file was due to ‘highly unusual circumstances’.

Judge Morris added: ‘It is accepted by the crown that if this went to trial the prosecution would not stand in the way of a jury bringing a not guilty verdict by reason of insanity.

‘The criminal courts would be put to vast expense and time in these troubles times when really it would be to no end.’ 

Last year, tributes were paid to Rina following the discovery of her body, with her former classmate Sarah Matthews describing her as a ‘hard-working teenager’ and an ‘amazing artist’.

Ms Matthews said she attended the independent Queen Mary’s boarding school for girls on the Duncombe Park estate near Helmsley with Rina from September 1980 to July 1986.

She said: ‘I shared a dormitory for two years with Rina and another pupil. Rina was a very hard-working teenager with a bright academic future, she was an amazing artist and a lovely girl.

‘She was quiet and studious, but she did have a good sense of humour. She participated in all aspects of school life. I am so shocked and saddened by her death.’ 

Ms Matthews said that Rina was highly academic at school and won a scholarship in 1986 to sixth form at Wycombe Abbey School in Buckinghamshire in the subjects of history, English, Latin and Greek. 

Ms Matthews said she believed that, after Wycombe Abbey, Rina attended Cambridge University. 

Rina and her family lived in Nunnington, North Yorkshire, before moving to Helmsley in 1998, she added.

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