The second women to be hanged in South Africa, ( the first was Dorothea Kraft who died for her part in the murder of Louis Tumpowski which happened on a farm in the Transvaal in 1918) her name has never been forgotten. She seemed to have a liking for plumbers.
It is believed that she only married men in order to kill them for financial gain. Two husbands and her 22 year son Rhodes died at her hands.
Between 1923 and 1932 the murders took place. Daisy De Melker ( her full name was Daisy Lousia C. De Melker ) was born on the 1 June 1886 in Grahams town in the Eastern Cape. She died on the 30 December 1932 at the age of 46
She murdered her first husband on the 11 January 1923 in Betrams, William Alfred Cowle. She poisened him with strychnine then on the 6 December 1927 she murdered her second husband Robert Sproat also using strychnine. Lastly on the 5 March 1932 she murdered her son Rhodes Cowle using arsenic.
Daisy was one of 11 children, at the age of 12 she went to live with her father and 2 brothers in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Three years later she returned to South Africa and went to a boarding school in Cape Town. In 1903 she enrolled in the Berea Nursing Home in Durban. On one of her holidays to Zimbabwe she met Bert Fuller who she fell in love with. They planned on getting married in October 1907. Unfortunately Bert contracted black water fever and died, with Daisy at his bedside on the day they had planned to get married. He left her a 100 Pounds to her.

Daisy married William Cowle in Johannesburg, he was a plumber. The age gap between them was fairly big, he was 36 and she was 23 years old. They had a total of five children of which four died. This included twins who died at infancy, the third child died from an abscess on the liver and the fourth child died at at the age of 15 years from bad bowls and convulsions. Rhodes Cecil their fifth child was the only surviving child and he was born in June 1911.

On the 11 January 1923 William became very ill, the first doctor did not consider it serious and when the second doctor arrived he was foaming at the mouth and in extreme pain. He passed away. The second doctor would not sign the death certificate as he had suspected strychnine poison. However after a post mortem it was declared that he had died from nephritis and cerebral haemorrhage. Daisy inherited £1795 from the death of her husband.

At the age of 36 Daisy married her second husband who happened to also be a plumber. Robert Sproat was 46 years old. He became ill at one point and recovered then it happened again on a second occasion, this time Robert passed away. There was no autopsy done and cause of death was noted as teriosclerosis and cerebral haemorrhage. Daisy inherited over £4000, plus a further £560 from his pension fund.

On the 21 January 1931 Daisy married her third husband Sydney Clarence De Melker, he was a Springbok player and also plumber.

In February 1932, Daisy travelled from Germiston to Turffontein to buy arsenic which she said was to kill a sick cat. Just a week later her son Rhodes became ill. He died on the Saturday and cause of death was noted as cerebral malaria. He was buried at New Brixton cemetery the following day.

People were now becoming suspicious and eventually her dead husbands brother contacted the authorities. on the 15 April 1932 a court order was granted to have all three bodies exhumed. After investigations Daisy De Melker was arrested a week later. Her trial lasted 30 days. The Crown brought forward 60 witnesses. When it was time for the judge to sentence Daisy he asked her if she had anything to say, with white striken face all she said was “ I am not guilty of poisoning my son“ The judge condemned her to death by hanging. She died at Pretoria Central prison.

The house that Daisy lived in is located at 22 Tully Street in Turffontein. She was arrested at the house in Germiston

It is said that her spirit still haunts Ward 7 of the former Transvaal Children’s hospital ( now the Florence Transition Home ) in Braamfontein where she worked as a nurse and first learnt about poison’s.

Daisy is buried in Pretoria. Ghost bus tours happen once a month and Daisy is included in the tour. There is information about her at the SAPS Heritage Museum in Pretoria on Pretorius street, Compol Building.

Entrance is free
Call : (012 ) 302 – 5281
Website :