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‘Black widow’ murder case casts shadow on lonely hearts among Japan’s elderly

Kyodo

The sensational case of a serial killer, dubbed Japan’s “black widow” and accused of killing elderly men — all of whom she met through a matchmaking service — has cast a shadow over a growing trend of elderly Japanese people seeking partners.

The case of 70-year-old Chisako Kakehi — who repeatedly met, dated and married elderly men, including her four victims — came at a time when elderly people have become more and more interested in finding partners amid a rapidly aging population and the spread of nuclear families in the country.

Kakehi was given the death sentence by the Kyoto District Court on Tuesday for the murders of her 75-year-old husband Isao and common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75, as well as for the attempted murder of her acquaintance Toshiaki Suehiro, 79, by having them drink cyanide between 2007 and 2013.

Kakehi had registered with a matchmaking service in the hope of meeting wealthy men with an annual income of more than ¥10 million ($87,900). She married or was associated with more than 10 men and inherited about ¥1 billion, though she eventually fell into debt.

But there is a view that Kakehi’s case may not deter elderly people from falling prey to similar schemes, apparently due to an anticipated rise in elderly people living alone and no conclusive measures to prevent a repeat of such incidents.

“I will stay with you for the rest of my life,” Kakehi wrote in an email to her husband, which was read during her trial. The email was sent to him before his death. It was apparent that immediately after meeting Kakehi through matchmaking, he was smitten by her charms and determined to marry her.

At a court hearing, a man in his 80s who said he dated Kakehi around the time of her husband’s death took the stand as a witness.

“My wife died, and living alone was tough, so I wanted to live together (with Kakehi),” the man recounted.

The two met through matchmaking, and in their fourth meeting, he entrusted her with his house key. He eventually broke up with her, at the warning of local police, who found the circumstances of her husband’s death suspicious.

Still, the man had good words to say about Kakehi, describing her as a “good woman.”

According to a survey by a major marriage-hunting service company, there has been a rise in the number of people of middle age or older who have remained unmarried through their lives but are looking for partners. Of that age group, many men aged 65 and older use websites and marriage consultation centers.

The company has also started a new service catering to middle-aged and elderly people in recent years.

Novelist Hiroyuki Kurokawa, who wrote a book in 2014 about a woman who was angling for inheritance by repeatedly marrying and dating elderly men, said, “At marriage consultation centers, elderly men are popular.”

Kurokawa, 68, discussed the psyche of elderly men, who have a short time left and assets to spare.

“A man, who lives on his own and far from his family, would want (someone) to be with him, even if he knew his partner is only out for his money,” said Kurokawa, a recipient of the renowned Naoki Prize for popular fiction.

While the case brought to light the tactics of a scheming wife and serves as a cautionary tale, Kurokawa warned that there is no “preventive measure” to ensure that a similar incident does not occur.

“Elderly people living alone will increase due to a longer average life span. Those becoming second wives are also on the rise,” he said.