Society

Woman Arrested for Using Puffer Fish Poison to Kill Boyfriend, Based on Forensic Test

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

The Prosecutors Office in Wuhan, China, announced that a woman in Hubei province, was charged on Wednesday, July 2, with using puffer fish poison to kill her boyfriend, according to WelcomeToChina.

Police state that a 33-year-old woman, named Xiao, called police in November 2013 to report that her boyfriend died suddenly at her home. She became the main suspect in an alleged grotesque murder plot after forensic testing showed the cause of death was puffer fish poison. Xiao confirmed that her boyfriend drank yogurt mixed with ground-up sleeping pills and puffer fish poison, the WantChinaTimes reports, but she claims it was not unintended.

Xiao had reportedly studied in Germany from 2008 to 2011, before she met her boyfriend, who was six years younger. According to WantChinaTimes, the couple had lived together since February 2013, and Xiao became pregnant in September.

 Xiao told police that her boyfriend “was not happy with her pregnancy” and moved out, offering to continue supporting her. In November, a doctor advised ending the pregnancy because she had become ill and could not carry the baby to full term.

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Police report that Xiao claimed depression and felt if she died her boyfriend would “feel regret,” so she sought what she believed would be a painless death by ordering puffer fish poison on the Internet for 5,000 Yuan (USD $805).

However, when she invited the boyfriend to her home on November 11, he requested a hot-water foot bath, which she prepared for him. While she was out of the room, she claimed to believe he drank some of the poisoned yogurt because he complained of drowsiness and sleepiness. She then told police she was extremely upset and drank the rest of the yogurt herself and lost consciousness until noon the next day, when she found her boyfriend dead, according to WantChinaTimes.

Xiao claimed that for seven days, she stayed by her boyfriend’s dead body, putting new clothes on him and lipstick on his mouth. She claims she then intended to commit suicide, but a cousin stopped her and she turned herself in to the police, WantChinaTimes reports.

Police doubted Xiao’s story for a number of reasons, according to WantChinaTimes, including the facts that she used the boyfriend's phone to request leave from his company and also posted a message on the Internet asking whether one should commit suicide or go to police after killing someone.

PUFFER FISH POISON PLOT ALLEGED IN CHICAGO

Xiao’s story is not the only case of obtaining puffer fish poison for an alleged murder plot. In September 2012, a Chicago-area man, Edward F. Bachner IV, was sentenced in federal court to 92 months in prison for illegally obtaining a deadly toxin through the mail and plotting to use it as a weapon, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The Daily Mail states that even though Bachner was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala for obtaining enough of a the deadly puffer fish toxin to kill more than 20 people, he was cleared of plotting to kill his wife.

Federal authorities claimed that Edward F. Bachner IV of Lake in the Hills, Illinois, planned to murder his wife and collect on a $20 million insurance policy.

Defense attorney Jeff Steinback denied that such a murder plot ever existed. He stressed that no one was injured and Bachner did not attempt to administer the toxin to his wife.

FBI agents arrested Bachner in June 2008 after he picked up a package containing the toxins, which are derived from the puffer fish, the Daily Mail reports. Authorities had been alerted to Bachner's alleged purchase of the TTX by an employee at the New Jersey chemical supply company.

Special agents from an FBI terrorism unit raided Bachner’s home and found syringes; vials of the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin; two passports; a phony CIA identification; a hand grenade; a pistol; and 50 knives, authorities said.

Bachner pleaded guilty in 2011 to possession of a biological agent and posing as a doctor to obtain TTX from sources that include puffer fish, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Karner portrayed Bachner as having "lived two lives," appearing outwardly as a happily married man while secretly plotting as far as back as 2005 to kill his wife, Rebecca, on whom he took out a $20 million life-insurance policy.

Bachner pleaded guilty in 2011 to knowingly possessing the toxin for use as a weapon, wire fraud and filing a false tax claim, the Daily Mail reports; but the allegations that he wanted to killed his wife were not part of his guilty plea.

His defense attorney blamed Bachner’s bizarre behavior on “personal demons” and financial setbacks and claimed that that Rebecca Bachner wanted the court to know that she had forgiven her husband, and said, “This has brought them closer to each other and to God."

Rebecca came to court to support her husband.  "Rebecca wrote she loves her husband very much. He's kind and caring, and she feels safe with him," defense lawyer Jeff Steinback told the judge, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Bachner told the court he was "extremely remorseful" for his actions, vowed to become "the husband my love of my life deserves" and said the couple hope to have children one day, reported the Tribune.

 PUFFER FISH POISON HAS “ZOMBIE” EFFECT

Puffer's (tetrodotoxin) poisoning induces distinct symptoms, according to Prof. Robert J. Lancashire, The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies, who explains, “It deadens the tongue and lips, and induces dizziness and vomiting, followed by numbness and prickling over the body, rapid heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and muscle paralysis.”

Professor Lancashire writes on Crime, Toxicity and Poisons that, “The toxin paralyzes diaphragm muscles and stops the person who has ingested it from breathing. People who live longer than 24 hours typically survive, although possibly after a coma lasting several days… In Voodoo, puffer's poison may be part of the mixture given to the victim to make them a "zombie", most likely because the paralysis and pseudo-comatose effect simulate the death portion of traditional zombie creation.”

Sources: Want China Times, Welcome To China, Chicago Tribune, Daily Mail