Japan’s ‘Black Widow’: The shocking case that gripped a country

2017-11-07 12:24
PHOTO: Gallo/Getty Images

PHOTO: Gallo/Getty Images

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Her lovers, all aged between 70 and 80, died one after the other – and she amassed a fortune.

At 70 she could easily be enjoying the leisurely pursuits of other women her age – spoiling the grandchildren, having tea with friends, taking walks in the park.

But Chisako Kakehi won’t be indulging in any of these activities any time soon. In fact, she has just been sentenced to death for committing a series of crimes that have turned her into one of Japan’s most notorious citizens.

Kyoto District Court condemned Chisako to the gallows for the murder of three partners, including a husband, and the attempted murder of another, The Guardian reports.

Her apparent motive: greed and an insatiable lust for the good things in life. In a case that’s gripped the Asian country she’s been accused of poisoning the men, who were all rich and elderly, before cold-heartedly cashing in on their life insurance policies.

Chisako has been dubbed Japan’s black widow – a reference to the deadly female spider that eats its mate after sex and a term often used to describe women who murder their lovers, either for profit or revenge.

The former owner of a T-shirt printing business was charged with the 2013 murder of her fourth husband, Isao (75), who collapsed at home just a month after their marriage, according to BBC.

Cyanide was found in his system following a post-mortem. She’s also accused of murdering two boyfriends between 2007 and 2013, as well as trying to kill another, whose drink she allegedly spiked with hydrocyanic acid while they were dining at a restaurant.

Despite collapsing in the parking lot he survived, but he died of cancer two years later – an illness that might have been brought on by his poisoning. Authorities believe Chisako’s crimes could be the tip of the iceberg and that her tally of victims might be much higher.

While she’s always expressed sorrow when her lovers died of what was initially believed to be natural causes, she didn’t bat an eyelid when it came to raking in their money.

Prosecutors allege that between 1994 and 2013 at least 10 men whom Chisako dated or married died, leaving her with about R8,5 billion in insurance payouts and inheritances.

She was eventually arrested in 2014 and her trial began in late June this year – a sensational case in which she boldly admitted to killing her fourth husband, a retired white-collar worker. “I killed him,” she told the shocked court according to a report by The Japan Times. “I have no intention of hiding the guilt. I’ll laugh it off and die if I’m sentenced to death tomorrow.”

Chisako confessed to wanting to “kill him out of deep hatred” as she says he didn’t treat her well financially and she needed money to pay off her debts.

“I wasn’t given any money after I married him,” she said. “I felt like Isao was discriminating against me in comparison to the previous woman he was in a relationship with and I got angry.”

She told the court she got cyanide from a business associate and put it into a health food capsule, which she tricked her husband into taking. But two days later she appeared to retract her statements in court, telling the judge, “I don’t remember [what I said].”

Her lawyers have argued she can’t be held responsible for the crimes as she suffers from dementia. Medical examinations last year confirmed she suffered from the early stages of the mental disorder that causes memory loss, but that she was fit to stand trial.

To date she hasn’t been charged with the deaths of her three other husbands.

Chisako seemed to have a specific modus operandi with the men she targeted, whom she met via dating sites. Most were aged between 70 and 80 and were ailing. She reportedly always stipulated they be rich and childless.

Once romantically involved she got them to make her the beneficiary of their life insurance policies. While she apparently raked in millions, reports say she lost most of the money through financial trading.

The case has shone a spotlight on Japan’s criminal justice system, with critics questioning why the deaths weren’t treated as suspicious at the time and investigated earlier. But because the men were initially deemed to have died of natural causes, autopsies weren’t always done.

“Given the men’s advanced age, we had to proceed carefully to judge whether their deaths were actually the result of foul play or not,” an investigator said. But when an autopsy on Isao revealed traces of cyanide, police grew suspicious.

They raided Chisako’s home in Kyoto and found traces of the deadly poison in the rubbish as well as medical books and paraphernalia for administering drugs. When they confronted her she claimed she had no idea how to kill anyone – a stance she stuck to until her recent confession in court. The trial is expected to last until November.

Before she was found guilty, she seemed unfazed by her potential fate. “I’d be happy to die,” she said. “You could just give me a drug now.”

Sources: theguardian.com, telegraph.co.uk, nytimes.com, news.sky.com, bbc.com, japantimes.co.jp

*This article has been adapted from a piece that originally appeared in YOU, July 2017

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