Japan’s ‘black widow’ serial killer sentenced to death for murdering three partners with cyanide cocktails

Chisako Kakehi, 70, became notorious after she dispatched a number of elderly men she was involved with, drawing comparisons with the spider that kills its mate after copulation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2017, 11:08am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2017, 9:55pm

A one-time millionairess nicknamed the “black widow”, who tricked elderly lovers into drinking cyanide then pocketed millions in insurance payouts and inheritance, was sentenced to death in Japan on Tuesday.

Kyoto District Court condemned Chisako Kakehi, 70, to the gallows for the murder of three men – including a husband – and for the attempted murder of another, ending a high-profile case that has gripped the country.

Kakehi became notorious after using poison to dispatch a number of elderly men she was involved with, drawing comparisons with the spider that kills its mate after copulation.

“The accused made the victims drink a cyanide compound with a murderous intention in all four cases,” Judge Ayako Nakagawa told the court, according to public broadcaster NHK. “The cases were well prepared in advance. They were cunning and malicious. I have no choice but to impose the ultimate penalty.”

Prosecutors sought capital punishment while her defence counsel pleaded not guilty to the crime due to a lack of physical evidence, also arguing that she cannot be held responsible as she suffers from dementia.

“The death sentence cannot be avoided even after fully taking into account dementia and other factors,” Nakagawa said.

Nakagawa pointed out that Kakehi “made light of human lives” as she repeatedly committed the crimes. “Offering almost no words of apology, we cannot tell she has truly reflected on” what she did, the judge added.

The court underlined that Kakehi did not suffer dementia when she committed the last crime in December 2013.

More than 560 people queued for 51 seats in the courtroom to witness the outcome of the marathon trial, which lasted 135 days.

Gray-haired Kakehi, wearing a hearing aid, asked the judge to speak up. She showed no emotion when the judge handed down the sentence.

The court said she killed the men after they made her the beneficiary of life assurance policies that reportedly ran into millions of dollars.

“For the love of money,” the accused poisoned the victims who trusted her, the judge said.

Kakehi reportedly amassed one billion yen (US$8.8 million) in payouts over 10 years but subsequently lost most of the fortune through unsuccessful financial trading.

She first married at the age of 24 and launched a fabric printing company in Osaka Prefecture with her husband. But following his death in around 1994, the factory went bankrupt and her house was put up for auction, leading her to ask neighbours for a loan. Kakehi then registered with a matchmaking service, where she reportedly stipulated that prospective partners should be wealthy men with an annual income of more than 10 million yen and childless.

She had relationships with many men, mostly elderly or ill.

Kakehi, also known as “The Poison Lady”, is said to have stashed some of her cyanide in a plant pot she later threw out.

The poison was found in the body of at least two of the men she was involved with and police reportedly found traces of cyanide in the rubbish at her Kyoto home.

They also found paraphernalia for administering drugs and medical books at a flat she kept south of Kyoto.

Kakehi initially refused to speak when her trial began in June but later stunned the court by admitting killing her fourth husband in 2013.

“I killed him … because he gave other women tens of millions of yen but did not give me even a penny,” she told the court, according to Jiji Press.

She had earlier told judges she was ready to hang.

“Even if I were executed tomorrow, I would die smiling,” Kakehi told judges.

After Tuesday’s ruling, her lawyers immediately appealed to a higher court, suggesting the high-profile trial could yet drag on.

Additional reporting by Kyodo