Deadly women: Black widows who murder, again and again

A March 13, 2014 photo shows 67-year-old Japanese woman Chisako Kakehi, who was arrested in Kyoto on Nov 19 on suspicion of poisoning her husband with cyanide. -- PHOTO: AFP
A March 13, 2014 photo shows 67-year-old Japanese woman Chisako Kakehi, who was arrested in Kyoto on Nov 19 on suspicion of poisoning her husband with cyanide. -- PHOTO: AFP

In the latest "black widow" case in Japan, 67-year-old Chisako Kakehi has been accused of poisoning her husband with cyanide, and has six former partners who have died of varying causes.

She received millions from insurance payouts.

From poison to car crashes, to arson, the black widows' methods differ, but they are usually after one thing - money.

Besides husbands, these women have also tried to bump off their children, or even complete strangers whose trust they gained.

While they often get away with the murder of one, two or even six victims, many leave clues behind as their murderous web widens.

1. The black widow of the French Alps

Manuela Gonzalez (left) with her husband Daniel Cano. -- PHOTO: INTERNETManuela Gonzalez was this year sentenced to 30 years in jail for the murder of her husband Daniel Cano.

He was found burnt in his car near their house in Villard-Bonnot in the Alps.

Four of her ex-partners had been poisoned, and two had died:

- In 1983, a former husband went into coma after overdosing on anti-depressants and divorced her after he woke up

- She was jailed for two years in 1984 after spiking her jeweller boyfriend's tea with morphine and trying to get him to write her a cheque for 12,000 euros

- In 1989, a lover died by asphyxiation from car exhaust fumes in what was thought a suicide

- Another partner died in in 1991 when a fire broke out at a flat they shared .

2. My daughter did itStacey Castor with her second husband, David Castor. -- PHOTO: INTERNET

Not only did Stacey Castor murder her husband, she tried to make it appear that her daughter did it.

She was convicted of poisoning her second husband with anti-freeze, attempting to murder her daughter, and falsifying her husband's will in 2009.

After poisoning her daughter with a toxic blend of vodka and pills, Castor forged a suicide note, so it would appear that her daughter, Ashley Wallace, took her own life after being eaten with guilt for the murder of her father.

Ashley was thoroughly confused when she woke up in hospital and was surrounded by detectives.

She lived to testify against her mother, and Castor was sentenced to 51 years in prison by a court in Syracuse, New York.

She is also suspected but never convicted of killing her first husband, and Ashley's father, Michael Wallace. Anti-freeze was found in his body after it was exhumed.

3. Bangkok black widow

Nathakan Anaman. -- PHOTO: THE NATIONNathakan Anaman was caught because she took out too many insurance policies for her husbands.

Insurers' suspicions were aroused when they realised that the former nurse had taken out a total of 22 insurance policies for two husbands. Both were killed in road accidents, just a year apart.

- Husband No. 3 Arun Kluakang was badly injured when he drove his car into a ditch, but survived in 2001. Then days after being discharged from hospital, he died as his wife drove him to a doctor, allegedly due to poisoning.

- Later, Investigators found that Natkarn had collected 3.8 million baht just a year before from the insurance policies of husband No. 2.

- First husband and military officer Kiphat Mongkote also died in a car accident in 2000. He had apparently fallen asleep under the influence of tranquilisers and collided with an oncoming truck.

Police found 30 types of medicine which induce drowsiness at Nathakarn's house.

But she was never convicted for murder, due to a reported lack of evidence. Nathakarn was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2004 for cheating life insurance companies and keeping controlled drugs.

4. Killer grandmothers

Helen Golay (top right) and Olga Rutterschmidt (bottom right) were convicted of the murders of two homeless men, Paul Vados (bottom left) in 1999 and Kenneth McDavid (top left) in 2005. -- PHOTOS: LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENTOlga Rutterschmidt and Helen Golay were in their 70s when they went to court for mowing down homeless men whom they had taken out insurance policies for.

They were dubbed "black widows" by the US media.

They first befriended the men at a Los Angeles church shelter, to identify easy marks. Then they took out multiple insurance policies for them, and arranged for "accidents".

The two grannies were convicted in 2008 for staging hit-and-run accidents on two men. They had also taken out policies on other men, police found.

They would have collected US$2.3 million from the death of the two men.

Detectives said they connected the two cases during a chance meeting between two investigators. In 2005, a detective handling the death of one of the men was talking about the peculiarity of the case when another officer interrupted him to say he had worked on a similar, unsolved hit-and-run six years earlier.

They compared notes and realised that in both cases, the bodies had been claimed by Rutterschmidt and Golay.

The two women were also involved in credit card scams, and would pose as wealthy guests to steal from hotel rooms.

5. The black widow of China

Liu Qiong from Sichuan province was married five times by the time she was 22.

In 2000, she confessed to having killed at least three of her five husbands, her own daughter and a father-in-law.

Liu's first husband, Yu Junan, died of poisoning, and their baby daughter died of starvation.

Liu left her second husband, apparently after deciding his family was too poor. She confessed to murdering her third husband with poisonous mushrooms.

Her (lucky) fourth husband ran away, as he thought she brought bad luck to her partners.

Liu confessed to killing her fifth husband, Hu Chunxian with a meal laced with rat poison. She also murdered his father because he was bedridden and she did not want to take care of him.

Sources: Straits Times Archive, The New Paper, The Nation/Asia News Network, Agence France-Presse, ABC News

chuimin@sph.com.sg