A 67-year-old millionairess was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of poisoning her husband with cyanide as it emerged six former partners had already died, in Japan's latest apparent "black widow" case.
Chisako Kakehi has been the beneficiary of a combined 800 million yen ($6.8 million) over the last two decades, Jiji Press said -- insurance money and other assets she received after the seven men's deaths.
Husband number four Isao Kakehi fell sick suddenly at home and was confirmed dead at a hospital in December last year, less than two months after the couple married.
An autopsy found highly toxic cyanide compounds in his blood. That came after the September death of a 75-year-old boyfriend, who fell suddenly ill after the couple ate together at a restaurant, Jiji said.
Kakehi's dalliance with death began in 1994 when her first husband passed away at the age of 54. In 2006 her second husband, whom she had met through a dating agency, died of a stroke aged 69, while the third marriage ended in 2008 with the death of her 75-year-old partner, Jiji said.
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.
Traces of cyanide were detected in his body, media reports said. Kakehi was arrested Wednesday by police in Kyoto on suspicion of murdering her latest husband.
She has denied any involvement in his death. "We suspect she did it for money," a police investigator on the latest death said without giving details of the amount involved. Police are now working on the theory that she could have been behind the deaths of at least some of the other six.
"We can't say how many now... Given their advanced age, we have to proceed carefully to judge whether their deaths were actually the result of foul play or not," the investigator told AFP over the phone.
Questioned by reporters earlier this year, former bank worker Kakehi protested her innocence. "If people suspect murder, I'd find it easier to bite my tongue off and die," she told reporters in March.
Jiji Press quoted her as saying in an earlier interview that she was "doomed by fate" to suffer a series of deaths among those close to her, and protesting that she had no access to poison.