Daisy de Melker: South Africa's First Serial Killer

Oct 13, 2009 - by Marilyn Z. Tomlins - 0 Comments

December 02, 2007

Daisy de Melker mugshot 1932

Daisy de Melker, mugshot 1932

Daisy killed the old fashion way, with arsenic and strychnine.

by Marilyn Z. Tomlins

No one present at the birth of Daisy Louisa Hancorn-Smith had reason to believe that she would one day be famous or, for that matter, infamous. A generation would grow up before a baby girl born in South Africa would again be named Daisy – such was the unpleasant odor that clung to the name.

It was Thursday, June 1, 1886. The place was Seven Fountains, 25 miles from the town of Grahamstown, in the British Cape Colony. The city of Cape Town was 550 miles further south.

Grahamstown was a frontier town: Antelope, leopard and lynx roamed the surrounding valleys. As for Seven Fountains, it was a cluster of white-washed homesteads with corrugated-iron roofs and wooden verandas. The locals were farming folk: A small plot of land surrounded each homestead. They spoke English and not Afrikaans, the language of the Dutch-descendant Boer people, the majority of the colony's inhabitants, and they attended the English church. Indeed, they looked on themselves as Brits, which they were. Most had arrived from Britain not all that long into the past, while the rest were descendant from the boatloads of British (English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish) settlers who had arrived in the colony in 1820, 66 years before Daisy's birth.

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