Daisy de Melker

Hello, my Freaky Darlings,

This week’s serial killer is probably South Africa’s most famous female killer – Daisy de Melker.

Daisy de Melker’s mug shot

Daisy was born on the 1st of June 1886 and executed on the 30th of December 1932. She was a trained nurse who poisoned two husbands with strychnine for their life insurance and then poisoned her only son with arsenic. Her reasons for killing her son were never known, but I think it’s safe to say that any woman who kills her own child is batshit crazy. Daisy was the second woman to be hanged in South Africa. The interesting thing is that she was charged with all three murders but only convicted of killing her son.

She murdered her first husband, William Cowle, on the 11th of January 1923. His death was excruciatingly painful. He foamed at the mouth, was blue in the face and screamed in agony whenever anybody tried to touch him. Daisy inherited £1795. Which in those days was probably a respectable amount of money.

Three years, to the day later, Daisy married again. On the 6th of November 1927, Robert Sproat died in the exact same way as William Cowle, except this time no autopsy was conducted and his death was ruled as being caused by cerebral haemorrhage. Daisy inherited £4000 plus a further £560 from his pension fund.

On the 21st of January 1931, Daisy married Sydney Clarence de Melker. In February of 1932 Daisy went to a chemist to get arsenic. She claimed it was to destroy a sick cat. Less than a week later her son, Rhodes Cowle, took ill at work after drinking coffee from a thermos prepared by his mother. He died on the 5th of March. The post-mortem declared his death as being from cerebral malaria. Daisy received £100 from his life insurance policy.

William Sproat, Daisy’s first husband’s brother, became suspicious of the three deaths and took his suspicions to the cops. On the 15th of April 1932, all three of her victim’s bodies were exhumed and traces of poison were found in all three of their bodies, or what was left of them. The court could unfortunately not convincingly prove that Daisy had killed both her husbands, but they did prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had killed her son.

On the 30th of December Daisy’s sentence was carried out. She was 46.


If you’re fascinated by serial killers, you may enjoy my serial killer thriller – Requiem in E Sharp.


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One thought on “Daisy de Melker

  1. Rhodes was buried at New Brixton cemetery beside the graves of his father and step-father, and a week later, Daisy was arrested. William Sproat, whose suspicions had never subsided, alerted the police to the uncanny similarities in the deaths of all three men. The bodies were exhumed and faint traces of strychnine were found lodged in the vertebrae of both husbands, coloured a soft pink from the dye chemists used to mark the poison at the time. Rhodes’ body was remarkably well-preserved, a characteristic of the presence of arsenic.

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