The two husbands of Daisy de Melker died remarkably similar deaths, and both of them died in agony. The reason was that Mrs. de Melker poisoned them with strychnine in order to collect on their estates. She got £1,795 from the first husband and more than £4,500 from the second.

Death certificates in both cases specified that both husbands died of natural causes, so Mrs. de Melker looked all set to enjoy her riches. Then she did an odd thing – she poisoned her only son, 20-year-old Rhodes, with arsenic.

Rhodes died in March, 1932, and the cause of death was given as cerebral malaria. The reason, however, has never been explained.

Rhodes seems to have been under the impression that he would come into an inheritance when he was 21. One theory was that he was demanding more than his mother could give him and was becoming a burden to her. The most obvious answer is that she simply didn’t like him. She had pampered him all his life but he rarely showed her any consideration in return.

When Rhodes died, a relative of her second husband raised the alarm and the three bodies were exhumed. The husbands’ bodies were found to contain massive doses of strychnine, and sales of poisons were traced back to Mrs. de Melker. She was arrested and charged with the three murders.

But, said the judge summing-up at her trial, the state had been unable to prove conclusively that the two husbands had died of strychnine poisoning. “It does not convince me, nor does it convict the accused,” he said. On the third count, however, the “inescapable conclusion” was that Mrs. de Melker had murdered her son.

For that murder alone Daisy de Melker was hanged on Friday, December 30th, 1932, at Pretoria Central Prison. Worldwide Hangings from True Crime Library.

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