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I’m not advocating this as a course of action, but it’s worth a thought if you’re ever driven to the edge. It does however require that your intended victim likes sashimi, Japanese raw fish. I’m told people often refer to this as sushi, but as far as I can find out sushi refers to the rice used in the binding and filling of some dishes, while sashimi is simply raw fish. You may want to check that before you embark on your homicidal spree. The devil is in the details.

The other thing is you need to go to Japan, to either Osaka or Tokyo, where you’ll find the delicacy known as fugu. This is sashimi prepared from various species of puffer or blowfish. These little suckers are as toxic as all get out. They’re thought to be the most poisonous creatures on Earth apart from the Amazonian golden tree frog. They’re full of a neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin. It’s very powerful and pretty much irreversible. If you get poisoned, it’s touch and go. A mild dose, and you may make it out the far side after a few days in intensive care while they keep you going on life support. A major dose, and that’s not very big at all, and it’s goodnight nurse.

Apparently it takes years to learn how to prepare this dish without killing the punters. You actually need a licence to be allowed to serve and prepare it in Japan. It’s illegal to prepare or serve it in the UK. The problem is that the internal organs, including the ovaries, liver (no surprise there), and swim bladder are laden with this toxin, and if you’re a bit cack-handed while gutting and cleaning the fish… well, visiting hours are 2 till 10 except on Sunday.

How does this help you, the putative murderer? Easy. You order fugu for your dinner companion, and spike it with extra tetrodotoxin. This isn’t as difficult as it seems to be. Scientists use this stuff all the time to block nerve impulses in the laboratory, so they can find out how nerve fibres work. I’ve used it. It’s commercially available; I’ll bet you can buy it somewhere on the Internet, no questions asked. Or just go skip diving at the back of one of the licensed restaurants, and grab a liver or two. I’ll leave it up to you to find a way of spiking your mark’s food, but I’m thinking a hollow chopsticks, ‘Mind if I try a bit?’ kind of approach.

You will need to be pretty hard hearted, since your target is going to suffer muscle spasms and eventual paralysis of the respiratory muscles, so he/she is going to asphyxiate in front of your naturally horrified eyes. You may need to hone your acting skills before you pull this stunt. It won’t look convincing if you get a fit of the giggles during the death throes.

Perfect. The chef carries the can and goes to jail, and you walk away free as a bird. I may have to write a story about this, now I come to think of it.

It does raise the awkward question as to how anybody found out that you could eat this stuff relatively safely. If it had been me, and I saw someone die a horrible death, I might just have said, ‘Oh well. Let’s put that down to experience, and keep puffer fish where Nature intended, which is in the water.’ I certainly would not have said,’ Hey guys! I think I know what the problem is.’

As an aside, this sort of weird thinking applies to the innocuous, and delicious, cashew nut. Roasted cashews are fine, and nutritious, and tasty. But the husks contain a corrosive that is so potent it’s used as an industrial metal cleaner. I’m not making that up, honestly. Roast them they’re fine, raw they give you a mouth and throat full of chemical burn blisters.

Again, I’d have steered well clear having seen a mate incapacitated by the damn nuts. ‘OK, no cashews for me, thanks all the same.’ Some lunatic couldn’t leave well alone. I know I’m often accused of this, but I have my limits. Not maiming myself and my loved ones in a series of experiments in pursuit of scientific interest is one of them.

Cashews are also bloody toxic in another form. The fruits look a bit like an orangey bell pepper. They don’t taste of much, but you can ferment them. In India, fermentation and distillation will give you a drink called urack. It’s water clear, and mixed with soda water and a slice of lime tastes like a mildly fruity cordial. Then it selectively attacks your knees and balance organs. Then you wake up in a darkened room some time later, wondering what the hell happened. Cashews are dangerous all right.