Japan's 'Black Widow' sentenced to death for poisoning lovers, taking their money

Agence France-Presse

Agence France-Presse

She would befriend the elderly men through a matchmaking agency, usually going for those who are childless and well-to-do.

A Japanese court on Tuesday sentenced a 70-year-old woman to hang for the deaths of her husband and two other former partners, and the attempted murder of a fourth man.

When they trusted her enough to make her the sole beneficiary of their assets, Chisako Kakehi would move in for the kill - like the venomous black widow spider that devours its partner after copulation.

According to the ruling, Kakehi murdered her 75-year-old husband, Isao, common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, and tried to kill acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by having them drink cyanide. Later the prosecution indicted her for the deaths of the two other men.

During her trial, Kakehi maintained her innocence until July, when she made a surprise confession to killing her husband with poison.

The court ruled that Kakehi was the only person with the victims at the time of their deaths and had immediately applied for her inheritance each time.

Prosecutors said Kakehi used cyanide to kill her lovers and received $8 million in insurance payouts.

First diagnosed with mild dementia in 2016, Kakehi said she had trouble remembering events shortly after her arrest.

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Her first husband died in 1994 and the business later went bust, prompting her to take out massive loans.

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

"The cases were well prepared in advance".

Her lawyers said that her testimony could not be trusted due to her dementia. "The death sentence can not be avoided even after fully taking into account dementia and other factors", presiding Judge Ayako Nakagawa said in the ruling.

"It was a heinous crime driven by greed for money", the judge said.

But the defence argued that much of the case rested on circumstantial evidence, and there was no evidence directly pinning Kakehi to the deaths - including how she had obtained and stored the cyanide.

This is the second-longest court case in Japan involving a jury since 2009, lasting 135 days.

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