Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daisy De Melker

Born near Grahamstown, South Africa, on June 1st, 1886, Daisy was child five of eleven.

In her teenage years, Daisy enrolled at the Berea Nursing Home in Durban and took holidays in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). This is where she fell in love with a young civil servant in the Native Affairs Department, Bert Fuller. Their marriage was planned for the spring, then postponed until the fall so that Daisy could finish her education.

The marriage would never happen. Fuller contracted Blackwater Fever and died in the spring of 1907 - the day their wedding was originally planned.

Fuller had made sure that his affairs were in order, not one to take life and death lightly - they were in the midst of war, after all. He left his fiancee everything that he had - a 100 pound inheritence.

In March of 1909 Daisy married William Alfred (Alf) Crowle, a plumber whose body didn't agree with the local cuisine. He was thirteen years older than she. Together they had five children. Of those, only one, Rhodes Cecil (born in June of 1911), survived.

In January of 1923 Alf fell sick. He had experienced illness for most of his marriage, but this time he took a turn for the worse. Daisy called for help. The doctor, after seeing the symptoms -- Alf was foaming at the mouth, his face was blue, and his screams were agonized -- suspected that he had been poisoned with strychnine. He refused to sign the death certificate. The district surgeon conducted an autopsy and determined the cause of death to be "Brights Syndrome" which caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

Daisy inherited 1795 pounds and was considered to be 'a widow of means'.

Three years later Daisy married another plumber, Robert (Bob) Sproat. Poor sickly Bob. He too, had chronic digestive upsets, much like the husband before him. A year and a half later he suffered from a violent illness - one that was similar to Alf's.

His death on November 6th, 1927, was said to be caused by arteriosclerosis and cerebral hemorrhage. No autopsy was performed.

The twice widowed Daisy - curse her bad luck - inherited 4560 pounds from Bob's will.

In January of 1931 Daisy married a widower, Sydney (Sid) Clarence De Melker - a former South African Springbok Rugby player who had taken up plumbing.

Remember Rhodes? Daisy's spoiled, obtuse, and epileptic son, had a hard time getting and keeping work. Daisy, ever the doting mother, sent flasks of coffee to work with Rhodes daily. He and his co-worker, sharing the flask one day, both took ill in March of 1932. The co-worker recovered a short time later. Rhodes, on the other hand, did not fair so well and died. The post-mortem concluded that Rhodes had died of cerebral malaria.

A few weeks before that Daisy had gone to a chemist out of town and bought arsenic under her second husband's name. She signed the poison register with her old name and address, having told the man that she needed it for a cat.

The next month Daisy's former brother-in-law reported to police that he was suspicious of all these similar deaths. They exhumed the bodies of Alf, Bob and Rhodes. Arsenic and strychnine were found in the remains of the two men. Arsenic was found in Rhodes. His co-worker went to the authorities and was tested for -- and found to have been administered -- arsenic.

A Judge found Daisy guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging for the murder of Rhodes. When asked if she had anything to say Daisy replied: "I am not guilty of poisoning my son."

She was hanged on the morning of December 30th, 1932, the second white woman to ever be hanged in South Africa.

Crime Magazine
Crime South Africa

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