'Lonely Hearts Killer'

Kanae Kijima is on death row for killing three men she had met through an online dating service.
Kanae Kijima is on death row for killing three men she had met through an online dating service.

TOKYO • In April, Japan's top court upheld a 2012 death sentence for Kanae Kijima, 42, for killing three men whom she had met through an online dating service.

Kijima, whose victims all died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Tokyo between January and August 2009, had also been dubbed the "Lonely Hearts Killer" by the media.

The Hokkaido native portrayed herself as an accomplished woman who led an extravagant lifestyle, staying in five-star hotels, wearing expensive labels and going for dates in luxury vehicles.

But it was all a facade funded by her ill-fated lovers, whom she is said to have squeezed dry of millions of yen before killing them.

The three men who fell prey to Kijima - reportedly a mother of five children - were Mr Takao Terada, 53; Mr Kenzo Ando, 80; and Mr Yoshiyuki Oide, 41. It is believed there could have been four other victims although no charges have been filed.

Defence lawyers argued that the men committed suicide, and that Kijima's conviction was based solely on circumstantial evidence.

But the prosecution said she had staged the deaths to look like suicide: She first drugged the men with sleeping pills or cold medicine prescribed by at least 10 different doctors, before burning coal briquettes in an enclosed space to poison them.

It was Mr Oide's death - in a rented vehicle without the key in the ignition - that aroused suspicions and set detectives on Kijima's trail. He did not fit the profile of someone who wanted to commit suicide. His blog posted a day before his death was brimming with excitement over starting a new life with his fiancee - Kijima.

She has reportedly remarried while on death row, and changed her family name to Doi.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2017, with the headline ''Lonely Hearts Killer''. Print Edition | Subscribe