A man charged with poisoning four farmers in Nantou County in July last year was convicted of murder on Wednesday and sentenced to life imprisonment by Nantou District Court.
Chu Ming-fu (朱明福) admitted lacing six bottles of rice wine with 2-chloroethanol, a highly toxic industrial solvent, and gave them to farmer Wang Mei-yung (王美永) as a gift, the court found.
Although Chu denied committing murder at his trial, police said he confessed in several interrogations to the crime and revealed that his motive was jealousy over Wang, a former girlfriend, the court said in a press statement.
Chu said he “would not have dared to even sip the poisoned wine,” which proved that he knew the chemical was lethal, the statement said.
Chu was sentenced to life imprisonment and deprived of his civil rights for the rest of his life.
Prosecutors confirmed in October last year that the ingestion of 2-chloroethanol had caused the death of Wang, her husband, Lin Ching-yi (林敬儀), and another couple — Tien Fu-jung (田福榮) and Wu Hsiao-chen (伍曉珍).
The two couples, farmers in Nantou County’s Hsinyi Township (信義), had dinner together on July 5 last year at Lin’s house and they all fell ill afterward. They were found dead the following day.
Investigators originally suspected botulism poisoning, which is caused by an extremely toxic bacteria strain found in canned and preserved food. However, Chu came forward on Aug. 22 last year, saying he had murdered the four victims. Chu admitted that he had given Wang six bottles of poisoned wine because he was upset that she had married Lin earlier that year, police said.
Even though botulinum toxins were found in one of the bodies, toxicologists determined at the time that it was not the cause of death. Chloroethanol toxins usually take effect sooner than botulinum, which means death would have occurred before botulism could develop, the toxicologists said. Furthermore, botulism poisoning can be treated, they said.
Chu can appeal the ruling.