Family ‘believed mummified relative was alive for months after she died in their home’

Rina Yasutake, 49, was found dead at the home she shared with her relatives in North Yorkshire.

Rina Yasutake, 49, was found dead at the home she shared with her family in North Yorkshire. (PA)
Rina Yasutake, 49, was found dead at the home she shared with her family in North Yorkshire. (PA)

The family of a woman whose partially-mummified body was found in their home continued to believe she was alive for months after she died, an inquest heard.

Rina Yasutake, 49, was found dead at the home she shared with her mother and siblings in the village of Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

Suspicions were raised at the local chemist in September 2018, when her brother Takahiro, 51, and sister Yoshika, 56, repeatedly bought bottles of surgical spirit over a period of days.

No cause of death has been established despite extensive police inquiries into what happened.

Police cordon tape pulled across a crime scene to prevent access
Police said the family was “utterly convinced” Rina Yasutake was alive. (Getty)

The emergency services had been called to the family's address in Bondgate, where paramedics found Yasutake’s dead body under a duvet on a mattress on the floor.

Craig Hassall KC, representing the family, asked detective inspector Nichola Holden, who led the police investigation, if the family was “utterly convinced” she was alive when the emergency services attended.

The detective replied: “They were at the time and for many months after.”

Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton said it was hard to determine how long Ms Yasutake had been dead, given the extent of mummification, but the level to which it had developed took “some weeks”.

The brother, sister and their mother Michiko Yasutake, 80, were charged with preventing a lawful and decent burial, but the prosecution was halted when it was found the family members suffered from a rare mental disorder.

Coroner Jon Heath was told there was no evidence of any third-party involvement in her death, no sign of injury or toxicological cause.

Rina Yasutake, who was Japanese, was a talented pupil and won a scholarship to Cambridge University where she studied classics, specialising in linguistics.

She did not work after university and the family had lived together in Helmsley for 20 years, the inquest was told.

In statements given to a psychiatrist, the brother and sister said that during the course of 2018 Rina Yasutake stopped eating, grew weaker and began to move less and less.

Earlier that year, it was recorded that Ms Yasutake, who was 4ft 11in tall, weighed just six stone six pounds.

Yoshika Yasutake told the psychiatrist: “She didn’t say much so we said to her to eat and drink more.

“She looked like she was being nourished by eating her soul."

Mr Hassall described his clients as “a very insular and isolated family” and Ms Holden agreed that even when using a Japanese interpreter, communication was difficult, as they spoke their own dialect.

Ms Holden said that during the course of inquiries, it was found they had no means of communicating with the outside world and no TV or radio.

Mr Heath recorded an open conclusion, saying: “I am unable from the evidence available to determine how she died.”

The family did not attend the inquest but Mr Heath said they would listen to a recording of it later.