Born: June 1, 1886
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: 1923 - 1932
Method of murder: Poisoning
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Daisy de Melker, it appeared, was unlucky in love. Her first two husbands, William Cowle and Robert Sproat, had preceded her to the grave, each of them dying of a mystery ailment and leaving her with a handsome endowment. Now married for a third time, De Melker suffered a third tragedy when her son Rhodes died inexplicably in March 1932.
This time, however, the death was not so easily explained away. Rhodes had been a fit and healthy young man until his health had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. Within weeks he was dead, leaving behind a considerable life insurance policy to console his grieving mother.
Perhaps it was the insurance policy that first roused the suspicions of the South African Police, but when they began investigating the death, an interesting witness came forward. A Johannesburg pharmacist testified that he’d sold a quantity of strychnine to De Melker. Sure enough, an autopsy proved that Rhodes had died of strychnine poisoning. And when the bodies of William Cowle and Robert Sproat were exhumed, they two showed clear signs of poisoning.
Confronted with such damning evidence, De Melker confessed. Convicted of all three murders she was sentenced to death and hanged in Johannesburg on December 30, 1932.
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