Till date, she has murdered about 8 men who professed their love for her and married her as their wife. She kills within months after marriage, the moment she is sure that the money and property had been willed to her. Read the story of Chisako Kakehi, the Japanese lethal housewife who has been rename the “Black Widow” for her role in the death of men who have married her in the past.
MUKO, Japan — When Isao Kakehi, a 75-year-old retired salaryman, was found dead on the floor of his home last December, the police at first believed the cause to be heart failure.
But a sharp-eyed detective grew suspicious. He noticed that Mr. Kakehi, a longtime widower, had suddenly remarried the month before his death, and to a woman he had just met through a dating agency. When a test of the dead man’s blood revealed lethal cyanide, the police began an investigation of his bride, Chisako, now 68, on suspicion of murder.
What they discovered would shock a country that has one of the fastest-aging populations in the world.
According to the police and news media reports, Mr. Kakehi was just one of six outwardly healthy elderly men who died abruptly over the last eight years after marrying or starting romantic relationships with Ms. Kakehi.
All were at least moderately wealthy, with homes and ample savings accounts accumulated over a lifetime of work in order to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Most died soon after drawing up wills that named her as the sole beneficiary.
The lurid deaths, some spaced only months apart, have grabbed national headlines, prompting tabloids to call Ms. Kakehi the Black Widow, after the venomous female spider that kills its mates. But the case also struck a deeper nerve. If the police allegations are true, Ms. Kakehi preyed on one of the biggest fears of Japan’s rapidly growing legions of retirees, members of a postwar mega-baby-boom who enjoy the longest life spans on earth — but are terrified of having to spend all those silver years alone.
A former bank teller who looks more like an aging auntie than a femme fatale, Ms. Kakehi (pronounced Kah-kay-hee) met the men through the dozens of specialized dating services that have sprung up here catering to lonely older people. The police say she carefully screened her prospective partners, looking for relatively wealthy men left single by divorce or the death of a spouse. Once she found one, the police said, she showered him with romantic emails professing her love.
“The elderly are an easy target because they have all the money, but they are also so afraid of isolation,” said Hiroyuki Kurokawa, a novelist who published a crime thriller this year that foreshadowed the Kakehi case. “This incident exposed the vulnerability of our aging society.”
The Japanese news media have begun using the title of the novel “Gosaigyo,” or “The Second Wife Con,” to refer to the Kakehi case. Mr. Kurokawa said he had recently signed a movie deal.
In recent years, Japan has grown fascinated with crimes against the elderly, even though police figures show that such crimes have declined as the society has aged. The most famous scam was “Ore ore sagi,” or “It’s me! It’s me!,” in which swindlers call old people on the phone, impersonating their sons while making tearful requests to send money.
Partly, this fascination may stem from guilt. While adult children traditionally shared their homes with their parents, the custom has been discarded as Japan has embraced Americanized, middle-class lifestyles in which the elderly live alone.
However, Ms. Kakehi has drawn particular attention because she is both elderly, and a woman. Some of her former neighbors in Muko, a small industrial suburb of the city of Kyoto, said that she may have been driven by economic desperation in a society where women still often earn less than men, including their pension payments.
“I think this is as much about inequality as aging,” said Keigo Sada, 51, a truck driver who lives two houses down from the small beige house where Mr. Kakehi died. “She was looking for easier ways to get money.”
Then again, the possibility that Ms. Kakehi may have accumulated as much as $8 million from the deceased men, according to news reports, suggests that something else might have been at work.
Last month, the police in Muko arrested Ms. Kakehi in connection with two deaths, that of her husband, Isao, and also a 71-year-old fiancé who suddenly fell dead off his motorcycle in 2012. A blood sample that a hospital happened to keep also contained cyanide.
Last week, the police said they found a small bag of cyanide in a plant pot that Ms. Kakehi had tried to throw away.
The police said they were still investigating her role in the other deaths, which had puzzled doctors because they came so suddenly to otherwise healthy men. But the police said it took them a long time to grow suspicious because of the relatively advanced age of the victims.
“If an old person dies without signs of struggle or bruises, we don’t usually suspect a crime,” said Ryoji Nishiyama, a detective for the Kyoto prefectural police department, which oversees Muko city.
Before her arrest, Ms. Kakehi denied killing the men, saying that she was the bereaved victim of a string of tragic misfortunes. Reporters who interviewed her said she alternated between warm and charming, and coldly calculating.
They also speculated that she was frustrated with her lot in life: news media reports say she graduated from a competitive high school but was blocked from attending college by her conservative parents.
Instead, she married a truck driver who later started a small printing company. He died suddenly in 1994 at 54. While the police now view his death as suspicious, they will not be able to prove it; he, along with most of the other victims, was cremated in accordance with Japanese custom.
The next death came in 2006, to the 67-year-old president of a small drug company she had married two years before. All told, she has been linked by the police and the news media to seven deaths: four husbands, including Mr. Kakehi, and three boyfriends and fiancés.
Some of these relationships overlapped, the police say. In February 2008, when she was married for the third time, to a 75-year-old landowner, she was also dating a clothing boutique owner in his 70s. The men died within two months of each other, in March and May of that year.
The police said that at the time of her arrest, Ms. Kakehi was dating at least two other men, who were warned by the police of the danger they were facing.
“People now fear it could happen to them,” said Mr. Kurokawa, the novelist. “Old age is looking increasingly vulnerable.”
This story was originally published in other websites including New York Times.