TOKYO — A nationwide search for missing centenarians in Japan has led to another grisly discovery -- the remains of a Tokyo woman who was believed to be 104 stuffed into her son's backpack for nearly a decade.
The police find at their apartment came weeks after the discovery of the more than 30-year-old mummified corpse of a man who had been thought to be celebrating his 111th birthday sparked concern about the very old in Japan.
Officials have fanned out nationwide since then to check on the whereabouts of citizens registered to be over 100, amid concern that some relatives have failed to report their deaths in order to draw their pension payouts.
In the latest find, made by police Thursday in an apartment in Tokyo's Ota ward, the dead woman's 64-year-old son told officials that his mother had died nine years ago, but that he hadn't been able to afford a funeral for her.
"She died in about June 2001 in our house," the man reportedly said.
"I laid out her body for a while, washed it in the bath, then broke up the bones and put them into a backpack."
Police are investigating the man on suspicion of criminal damage to a human body and illegal pension receipt, Jiji Press and other local media reported.
The son told police that "because I didn't have money for a funeral, I didn't report her death," the Sankei Shimbun daily reported.
The ward had sent her 150,000 yen (1,800 dollars) in cash gifts to celebrate what was believed to be her longevity in the past three years, reports said.
Japan has a tradition of giving birthday gifts to centenarians, but often the presents are handed to family members.
A government report said in July that Japan's average life expectancy set a world-best 86.44 years for women while men's average life expectancy came fifth globally with 79.59 years.
Japan had more than 40,000 registered people aged over 100 at last count, but by last week, officials had found that nearly 200 of them were missing.
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