Family kept daughter’s mummified remains in house as ‘her soul had not left’

Rina Yasutake was found lying on a mattress in a terraced cottage in sleepy market town Helmsley, near York, after pharmacy staff told police her siblings ‘smelled of dead bodies’

A family in a sleepy North Yorkshire village kept the mummified remains of their daughter in their home for six weeks and begged officers to leave her body as ‘her soul had not left’, a neighbour has said.

Rina Yasutake, 49, was found lying on a mattress in a terraced cottage in sleepy market town Helmsley, near York, in September 2018.

Rina, who was a talented artist thought to have attended Cambridge University, was found in an advanced state of decomposition by the time police attended the scene.

An earlier hearing heard how police made the discovery after a tip-off from local pharmacy staff, who said Rina’s siblings ‘smelled of dead bodies’.

Her mother Michiko Yasutake, 78, sister Yoshika Yasutake, 55, and brother Takahiro Yasutake, 49, were due to go on trial this year, Yorkshire Live reports.

They pleaded not guilty to preventing the lawful and decent burial of a dead body without lawful excuse in October last year.

But the recorder of York, Sean Morris ruled on Tuesday that the charges against the three defendants should lie on file and the case would be dropped.

Helmsley, a town of just 1,500 people, was left with an eerie feeling after the news first broke as they are known for their bustling market square and access to the North York Moors rather than their macabre crimes.

A neighbour, who wished not to be named, recalled the commotion when the police first arrived on the quiet street.

She said the family were ‘completely heartbroken’ and begged officers to leave the body.

She said: “When they took the body away the family were begging them not to. They were completely heartbroken.

“I heard it was because they thought her soul had not left her body. It’s just a very sad case, and I feel so terribly for the family.”

The neighbour went on to say that the ‘reclusive’ family were ‘dignified and civilised’.

She said they ‘always kept to themselves’ and added: “I think they are a very dignified and civilised family, and I would only wish that more people were as quiet and silent as they were.”

Another woman, who has lived in the area her entire life, said people around town knew of the family ‘weirdly because no one knew them’.

She said that it was quite normal for most people to greet each other as they walked around, but the family never spoke or looked at anyone.

She said: “All I know is that they kept to themselves, and they seemed really insular. The brother and sister would always walk around together, and stand really close.

“This is the kind of place where you say hello to everyone, but they never even looked at you or acknowledged you. It was a bit peculiar for around here.

“Most people would at least nod at each other, it’s a friendly place. But we knew them from just seeing them around, they were the people we didn’t know anything about.”

She said she felt ‘terribly sad’ when the news first broke, and has since seen them less and less.

She added: “Do you ever expect to read about a story like this, I don’t think so. All I can remember is how it was terribly sad.”

One man, who walks his dog on the street where the family live each day, said he was surprised by the decision not to prosecute the family.

He said: “I walk my dog here every single day, and then one day I read about the body which had been found.

“You never expect to read about something like that, never. And then yesterday’s news was even more surprising.”

He said the family were reclusive but he sometimes saw the mother out on walks – but that has become a rare occurrence.

He added: “You don’t see them about really, they were very reclusive. Sometimes the elder lady would go out on walks.

“But I’ve seen them less and less.

“There wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary about them. They just stayed among themselves.”