In the outskirts of Bangalore, five women were found dead in the span of three months. There were no marks on their bodies, no sign of assault — sexual or physical. Upon conducting their autopsy, cyanide was found in their system. Who would you think committed these murders? What could be the motive behind them? Most people would have conjured the image of a man with sinister motives behind the murder of these women.
Karnataka’s K.D. Kempamma, also known as ‘Cyanide Mallika’, is India’s first convicted female serial killer. Between 1998 and 2007, she is suspected of having been responsible for the deaths of six women in the state of Karnataka. It is believed that she took a seven-year-long sabbatical after her first murder. Thanks to patriarchal thought models, the fact that these victims were killed by a woman kept astounding the investigating officers for a long time!
By no means is this a horror story. This is a tale of greed and ambition – it is the story of a simple woman who was so incredibly aspirational that nothing could stand in the way of her dreams, not even human lives.
Born in 1970, Kempamma and her family resided in the suburbs of Bangalore. They were a family of modest means as were the majority of the other families in the village. Kempamma, however, always had an ambitious mind. She had always been attracted to a more opulent lifestyle. And she was still in favour of taking the shortest route to her objectives. Kempamma married a tailor as a teenager and became a mother soon after. She had two more children after that. Kempamma was dissatisfied with life’s offerings; she desired more, much more. She was born in Kagglipura, Karnataka, and served as a house-help there. Kempamma decided to become wealthy overnight and began stealing from the homes where she worked as domestic help.
Following this, she decided to start a chit fund near her home to help her achieve her goals, which she eventually did. However, the company suffered significant losses, and the family of five was engulfed in debts as a result of Kempamma. Kempamma was thrown out of the house by her husband in a fit of rage and in 1998, her husband deserted her. Following the loss of her business, Cyanide Mallika was forced to find new ways to make money. The most straightforward seemed to be duping ‘women in distress.’ Women from well-off families who were in distress were targeted under this scheme.
After working as domestic help for a while, she finally found employment at a goldsmith’s. That too, however, didn’t work out eventually. Her job at the jeweller’s, however, was not in vain; she had acquired a one-way ticket to riches in the form of ‘cyanide.’ Kempamma says that the movies she watched taught her about cyanide and its use as a poison. While it might have been a plagiarised idea to use cyanide, the rest of the strategy was special. Kempamma devised a brilliant, murderous idea to become rich in a matter of days.
Kempamma would go to the temple every day and keep track of what was going on. She kept a close eye on the regulars who seemed to be in a lot of pain. Kempamma would approach them as a holy woman when the time was right and lend her ears to their problems. She was well aware that they were in pain and knew just what they desired. She decided to assist them with a ‘mandala pooja,’ which she promised would solve all of their problems. She will also ask them to put on their most precious dress and all of their jewels for the ceremony. Kempamma would often invite them to a temple on the outskirts that they were unfamiliar with. She’d ask them to close their eyes and pray after that. They had no idea it would be their last. Then she would serve them cyanide-laced water as “holy water.” And that was her modus operandi.
Her first murder occurred in the year 1998. In 1999, Cyanide Mallika’s first victim was a 30-year-old wealthy woman in Bengaluru’s outskirts. Kempamma’s eyes were often drawn to valuable items. All of her victims were elderly women going through tough times in their lives, such as a woman with asthma who wanted to get rid of it, a 59-year-old woman who wanted to locate her missing boy, and so on. Kempamma would change her identity entirely after each murder. In 2000, she was arrested for attempting to steal valuables from a home. Kempamma was invited to conduct a ceremony there but the woman screamed and was rescued by her relatives. She, however, was only sentenced to six months in jail for her crime.
Kempamma is said to have gone 7 years without being involved in another murder after her first. There are claims that she killed many people during this time period, but this remains a mystery to this day. Kempamma, on the other hand, murdered five of her victims while on a killing spree in a three-month stretch in 2007.
Renuka, a Bengaluru resident whose body was discovered in a guest house, was murdered in 2006 by Cyanide Mallika.. The murderer, otherwise called Jayamma, was actually Kempamma, according to the police report. While the cops were on the lookout for Jayamma, Kempamma chose Nagveni as her next victim. Nagveni was childless and therefore fell victim to Cyanide Mallika’s deception.
Mallika summoned Nagveni to a temple for a special prayer and offered her poison as an offering. Police apprehended Cyanide Mallika as she fled with Nagveni’s jewellry.
She was nicknamed ‘Cyanide Mallika’ because when she introduced herself to her last victim, she called herself ‘Mallika.’ Cyanide Mallika was arrested and sentenced to death in 2012. Her death penalty was commuted to a life sentence at Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara Central Jail. She was the first person in the state of Karnataka to be sentenced to death.
When it comes to psychopaths and serial killers, we usually believe that their killing instinct was wired into their brain from birth. But, couldn’t there have been other circumstances that led to the same amount?
Cyanide Mallika is still a mystery. Although we always try to justify the brutality of murders by reaching back in time to find something that went horribly wrong during the killers’ formative years, Cyanide Mallika’s early life offers no such clues, as there is little to no details about that time. However, upon reading of the facts surrounding the murders, it leads us to believe that she was motivated solely by financial gain.
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