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Daisy De Melker “South Africa’s First Serial Killer”

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1 Daisy De Melker “South Africa’s First Serial Killer”
By: Bryan Fink

2 Early Life Born on June 1, 1886 at South Fountains near Grahamstown.
One of eleven children Lived with father and two of her brothers in Bulawayo In 1903 she returned to South Africa and enrolled at Berea Nursing Home in Durban Found rural life boring and hated her father, never felt accepted as part of the family

3 First Marriage (Attempt)
In Rhodesia in 1903 she met Bert Fuller He was a civil servant in the Native Affairs Department at Broken Hill Planned to marry in October 1907 Fuller contracted black-water fever and died, with Daisy at his bedside, on the very day they had planned to marry Fuller left a will worth £100 to his fiancé

4 First Marriage (Actual)
In March 1909, about eighteen months after the death of Bert Fuller, Daisy (23) married William Alfred Cowle (26) He was a plumber in Johannesburg Five children, four of whom died The only surviving child, Rhodes Cecil, was born in June 1911

5 First Murder Early morning of January 11, 1923 William Cowle become ill soon after taking Epsom salts prepared by his wife First doctor didn’t consider it to be serious and gave him a bromide mixture When second doctor arrived, he foamed at the mouth, was blue in the face, and screamed in agony if anyone touched him until he died The second doctor suspected strychnine poisoning The cause of death was certified to be chronic nephritis and cerebral hemorrhage Daisy Cowle, the sole beneficiary of her husband's will, inherited £1795

6 Second Marriage At age 36, Daisy Cowle married another plumber, named Robert Sproat In October 1927, Robert Sproat became violently ill He was in great agony and suffered severe muscle spasms similar to those experienced by William Cowle A few weeks later, he suffered a second fatal attack after drinking some beer in the company of his wife and stepson, Rhodes He died on November 6, 1927 and the cause of death was arteriosclerosis and cerebral hemorrhage Following Robert Sproats death, his widow inherited over £4000, plus a further £560 paid by his pension fund

7 Third Marriage On January 21, 1931 she married widower and plumber Sydney Clarence De Melker She never had the chance to get to know him or worse murder him due to suspicion on the deaths of her previous husbands

8 The Death of Rhodes Cecil Crowle
February 1932, Mrs. De Melker traveled many kilometers from Germiston to Turffontein, to obtain a quantity of arsenic from a chemist She used her former name, Sproat, and claimed that she required the poison to destroy a sick cat Wednesday, March 2, 1932, Rhodes took ill at work after drinking coffee from a thermos flask which his mother had prepared for him Rhodes died at home at midday on the following Saturday Cause of death was given as cerebral malaria On April 1, 1932, Mrs. De Melker received £100 from Rhodes life insurance policy

9 Rhodes Cecil Crowle Obituary in the Newspaper
”I am not guilty of poisoning my son.” ~Daisy De Melker (One day before being hanged)

10 Caught in the Act William Sproat, her dead husband's brother, had become, suspicious and he went to the authorities On April 15, 1932, the police obtained a court order permitting them to dig up the bodies of Rhodes Cowle, Robert Sproat and William Cowle Sure enough, the government analyst was able to isolate traces of arsenic in the viscera, backbone and hair along with traces of strychnine A week later, the police arrested Mrs de Melker and charged her with the murder of all three men

11 Evidence Rhodes Cowle had died of arsenic poisoning
The coffee flask held traces of arsenic The accused had put the arsenic into the flask (can see no escape from the conclusion that the accused put arsenic into the flask) on the Wednesday prior to Rhodes Cowle's death The defense of suicide was untenable

12 Trial The De Melker trial lasted thirty days
Sixty witnesses were called for the Crown and less than half this number, for the defense Dr J.M. Watt, an expert toxicologist and Professor of Pharmacology at the Witwatersrand University was called as forensic pathologist He concluded that he was unable to prove conclusively that Cowle and Sproat had died of strychnine poisoning On the third count, however, he had come to the 'inescapable conclusion' that Mrs De Melker had murdered her son. Daisy De Melker technically a serial killer (with 3 murders) only was charged with one which was the death of her son On the morning of December 30, 1932, Daisy de Melker was hanged

13 Media Attention Spectators lined up for hours each day before the proceedings began On the final day of the trial, some spectators who had waited overnight to ensure a place in the court sold their seats for up to 30 shillings each The trail was recorded for only forensic purposes and for criminal investigations in the future During the end of trial the judge sensed what he thought was guilt When looking to pass sentence her face whitened and for a moment all the strength seemed to leave her body She was known as the first South African serial killer and became infamous

14 What Drove Her to Such Madness?
Deaths of her two husbands Robert Sproat and William Cowle can be explained by…. Revenge for death of her first love Bert Fuller For their money and inherits Deaths of her son Rhodes Cowle can be explained by… Life Insurance Lack of respect – Daisy pampered him to a point where he was too old to be pampered and never got a thank you Rhodes was lazy and was becoming a burden

15 Was she evil???? My definition of evil: Portrays themselves as someone who can do anything they want whenever they want in order to benefit their lives without feeling remorse. Daisy De Melker was a Poisoner She felt that she could benefit financially by killing her two husbands and son which in my mind is completely EVIL She was like any other nurse, taking care of the sick or wounded but with a dark side. If she felt that you were holding you back you had no need to live

16 Comparing it to my life I have a loving family who cares for me always
I don’t find life boring, I appreciate every day I get! I didn’t travel as much as she did I wouldn’t even know where to get poison!

17 Last Known Image Kept of Daisy De Melker on Record

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