A FAMILY kept the mummified body of their daughter in a cottage for six weeks because they were “utterly convinced she was still alive”, an inquest heard.

A mysterious diary was later found in the home of talented artist Rina Yasutake recording “she became unresponsive on August 18” 2018.


Detectives in North Yorkshire arrived at the property on September 25, 2018 to find Rina’s remains on a mattress in an upstairs bedroom of the property in the sleepy town of Helmsley – which had no modern conveniences, TV or radio.

Part of the investigation was to find out who owned the diary – which was written in Japanese – but nothing ever came to light, Senior North Yorkshire Corner Jon Heath was told today.

Giving evidence, Det Insp Nichola Holden, the senior investigating officer, said the inquiries had been hampered because the family spoke only Japanese – and used a “unique” dialect.

Northallerton Coroner’s Court was told that Rina had first visited her GP in 2013 because of family concerns about her “aggressive episodes” and fears she might harm her mother.

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Her weight was recorded at 6 stones and 6lbs and she was only 4ft 11 inches tall. 

Rina, who was aged 49 when she died, had been a talented artist who had graduated in classics at Cambridge but had never worked since.

For 20 years, she had lived in total isolation with her mother Michiko Yasutake, now 80, brother, Takahiro Yasutake, now 51,  and sister Yoshika Yasutake, now 56.

She had not seen her GP since 2013.

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WENT TO BED AND 'STOPPED MOVING'

Following the death of her father in Japan, Rina stopped eating and eventually went to bed and “stopped moving”.

According to the handwritten diary, she was “very weak, took to her bed, and continued until August 18 2018 when she became unresponsive”.

Police were finally called in after Eva Ward, from the local pharmacy in Helmsley, came back from holiday and was told by staff a man and woman had been buying large quantiles of surgical spirit.

On September 24, she was told the same people had bought more bottles and she asked to be informed that they came in again, knowing that the spirit could have dangerous properties.

The next day, she was told the couple had been in again so when they returned yet again at 10.30am Ms Ward was waiting to confront them, the hearing was told.

She said the man had a pink folder containing some letters and she spotted Rina’s name among them.

Yoshika confessed: “Our sister is not conscious.” Noting Rina’s name, Ms Ward asked about the bottles of spirit “Are they for her” and the two siblings nodded.

The pharmacist informed police who attended the property and found Rina’s badly decomposed and “mummified” body on a mattress in an upstairs bedroom.

A duvet was covering the body up to the neck and a paramedic Karen Tomlinson said: “It was obvious she had been dead and probably had been for some weeks.”

But DI Holden  agreed with the family’s barrister Craig Hassall KC that Rina’s loved ones were “utterly convinced she was still alive”

She continued: “Yes they were. They were at the time and for many months afterwards.”

She added that ‘the family was an independent unit from the village. They had no modern communications. There was no TV and no radio.”

Following a decision by a judge in 2021 that it would not be in the public interest to hold a trial over Rina’s strange death the statements of her siblings were heard for the first time.

Both had told the story of how she wasted away in front of them to consultant psychiatrist John Howard Kent in February 2020.

I don’t know how to explain. Even though she was not eating. She was nourished with spiritual food and was fulfilled.

Both agreed she had stopped eating, and move less, until she stopped moving.

But her sister did not accept she was dead: “She was still breathing, her body was warm, and she still had a pulse,” Yoshika told the doctor.

“She did not say much to us. So we said to eat and drink more. She looked like she was nourished by eating her soul.

“I don’t know how to explain. Even though she was not eating. She was nourished with spiritual food and was fulfilled.”

Her sister said: “Rina went to Cambridge to study classics. She was very bright. She was more outgoing than me.”

A post-mortem established there were no signs of injuries, disease or drugs. The cause of death was “unascertained”. There was no suggestion of suspicious circumstances.

Recording an open conclusion, the coroner said: “The accuracy of the diary is not known, The cause of death cannot, therefore, be ascertained for sure.

“The family did not believe Rina was diseased and remained in that continuing belief for some time thereafter.”

Wrapping up the inquest, he offered the family his “sincere condolences for their loss.”

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