Japan's 'black widow' still on hunt for single, elderly, ill men as husband No. 4 died: Reports

TOKYO (AFP) - A so-called "black widow" in Japan suspected of killing up to six partners for money, was still on the hunt for an "unattached elderly man with assets" when her fourth husband was poisoned with cyanide, reports said on Friday.

Chisako Kakehi, 67, who was arrested this week on suspicion of murdering her 75-year-old spouse, had received 1 billion yen (S$11 million) in insurance and other payouts over ten years following the deaths of husbands and lovers.

But the former bank worker, who held the money in more than 10 different accounts under several different names, had lost most of the cash in bad bets on futures markets, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

In a case that has gripped Japan for days, the Asahi newspaper reported Kakehi had been involved with more than 10 men over the last two decades, of whom six had perished. Most of the men had been found through marriage agencies, where she would look for partners who had land or property, but no children, the paper quoted investigation sources as saying.

Soon after Mr Isao Kakehi - her fourth and most recent husband - died in December 2013, she was on the prowl for a new companion, it said.

She wanted the man to be "elderly" and "living alone", the paper said, citing an investigator. She also made remarks suggesting that "it would be better if he has an illness".

Kakehi - dubbed a "black widow" by some media for the female spider that eats its mate after coupling - has said she had serial relationships because she wanted peace of mind.

"I want to lead a peaceful life in my old age without scrambling for money but by relying on a decent man," she told the private NTV network last month.

She inherited money from some of her unmarried partners as she had notary documents saying they would leave their money to her.

Giving her such documents was "the minimum, necessary way of expressing their sincerity", she said.

Over the course of several doomed relationships, Kakehi had inherited hundreds of millions of yen in real estate, bank deposits and insurance money, Jiji Press said.

But the cash was all gone after a series of failed bets on the financial markets, and she had racked up debts of 10 million yen by the time she married Mr Kakehi in November last year. He died the following month.

The nuptials did not stop her courting other men, Jiji said, reporting that she had arranged a "marriage meeting" with an older man shortly after she took her vows.

The Nikkan Sports Daily said she was in relationships with several other men around the time of her fourth husband's death.

She was registered at a number of marriage agencies in western Japan using different names and said she was looking for an "unattached elderly man with certain assets", the paper reported.

Police who raided her home in Kyoto on Thursday found traces of cyanide in the rubbish, media said.

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

Detectives began their investigation after an autopsy on husband number four revealed cyanide in his blood.

The post-mortem examination came after the September death of a 75-year-old boyfriend, who fell suddenly ill after the couple ate together at a restaurant.

Kakehi's dalliance with death began in 1994 when her first husband passed away at the age of 54, although there is so far no suggestion she was involved in his death.

In 2006, her second husband died of a stroke aged 69, while the third marriage ended in 2008 with the death of her 75-year-old partner, according to Jiji.

A boyfriend, believed to have been suffering from some form of cancer, died a year later, and in 2012 her then-fiance met his fate after collapsing while riding a motorbike.

Kakehi denies any involvement in the deaths.

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