TOKYO -- Extortionists who laced candies with deadly cyanide have threatened in a new letter to poison other foods unless stores quit selling products made by the Morinaga Confectionary Co., police said today.
'It is going to be like treasure hunting,' the letter taunted.
The latest gruesome twist in the case that has baffled police for seven months came in the form of a letter postmarked Sunday and sent to the president of Osaka-based Izumiya supermarket chain, officials said.
Like 11 other letters, it was signed by the 'Man with 21 Faces,' a name derived from a children's TV series of the 1960s and adopted by a group that is trying to extort $410,000 from Morinaga.
Police so far have recovered 13 packages of Morinaga candies spiked with lethal 200 milligram doses of sodium cyanide. One was sent to a news organization and 12 were recovered from food store shelves in the Osaka region.
The extortionists, believed to be responsible for kidnapping the president of another candy company last March, have warned that 20 cyanide-spiked packages of candy are on store shelves.
All the packages recovered so far have been labeled with warnings that they contain cyanide. But in letters to news organizations, the group has threatened to place 30 unmarked packages of cyanide-contaminated sweets on the store shelves unless Morinaga gives in to its exortion demands.
The latest letter to the Izumiya chain warned that other, unspecified food products also would be poisoned unless all Morinaga products are withdrawn from sale.
'We are out to destroy Morinaga,' the typewritten letter said. 'We have many sweets laced with sodium cyanide. It is going to be like treasure hunting. We are next going to have 100 more.
'Don't keep Morinaga products until we say go ahead. If you have, we are going to lace other products,' it threatened.
Morinaga, one of Japan's major candy manufacturers, has appealed to stores not to stop selling its products, but 870 outlets have already done so.
The case first surfaced in March with the kidnapping of Katsuhisa Ezaki, the president of Ezaki Glico Co., another major candy company. Ransom was demanded but Ezaki escaped.
The kidnappers then launched an extortion campaign against Glico, claiming they had laced its products with cyanide. No poisoned Glico products were found, but the company suffered a $21 million sales loss.
The nature of the case is unprecedented for Japan, whose normally efficient police have been severely criticized by the media for their failure to crack it.
Investigators said they hoped to get some leads from a videotape recorded by cameras in a Family Mart store west of Osaka where one of the poisoned packets was discovered Sunday.
The cameras filmed 'about 40 people' passing by the store's candy section during the three-hour period in which the poisoned candy was believed to have been put on the shelf, police said.
One Japanese news report said police were also searching for a woman observed near the candy counters of three stores where poisoned candy was later discovered. But Osaka police refused comment on the so-called 'mystery woman,' described by one newspaper as middle-aged and wearing slacks and sunglasses.