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Suspect in fatal Japan clinic fire dies in hospital

TOKYO (AP) – The suspect in a fire in Japan that killed 25 people has died at a hospital where he was being treated for burns and smoke inhalation, police said yesterday.

Morio Tanimoto had been under investigation on suspicion of arson and murder in the December 17 fire at a mental health clinic in Osaka in western Japan.

He died on Thursday.

Tanimoto, a clinic patient, was seen on security camera footage. He had bought a large amount of gasoline, and the incident drew comparisons to a 2019 arson attack on an animation studio in Kyoto that killed 36 people.

Japan’s nationally circulated Yomiuri newspaper said Tanimoto had been in a coma, adding that his death will likely mean much of the crime will remain a mystery. A retired metal worker, Tanimoto had troubled relations with his family, according to Japanese media reports.

The Osaka fire gutted an eight-story building, and people were trapped inside, although firefighters put out the blaze within an hour.

It raised serious questions about the safety of the building’s design, as there was only one way out, and the elevator and emergency stairs were located outside the clinic.

Among those killed were patients and the head doctor.

The suspect in the 2019 arson at the animation studio, Shinji Aoba, recovered, has been charged and faces trial.

Mourners in front of memorials to lives lost in a building fire. PHOTO: AP