Monday, December 31, 2007


Lady killer with cyanide prasad
Prayer bait for victims
Mallika being escorted to the police commissioner’s office in Bangalore on Monday. Picture courtesy Bangalore News Photos

Bangalore, Dec. 31: A female serial killer who murdered six women with an unusual poison often linked to the LTTE was arrested here last night trying to sell the victims’ jewellery.

Mallika, 43, whose real name is K.D. Kempamma, took her victims to dharamshalas, forced the quick-killing cyanide powder into their mouth and robbed them, officers said. The last five murders were between October 10 and December 18 this year.

Officers said they didn’t know how Mallika got hold of cyanide, available only in certain laboratories and industries, and often used by cornered militants to kill themselves lest they be tortured in custody.

Mallika would befriend lonely women in Bangalore who were looking for spiritual solace or a cure, police said. She would convince them that all they needed to do was a special puja.

Together, they would travel to a temple outside the city — the quarry wearing her jewellery on Mallika’s advice — and check in at a dharamshala. By morning, the victim would be dead with her jewellery, money and cellphone missing.

While her companion prayed with her eyes shut, Mallika would pour cyanide powder out of a vial and force open the victim’s mouth — often by pulling her hair, officers said. They claimed each murder earned her Rs 25,000-30,000.

Even a few grams of cyanide powder can kill in minutes, Dr Prabhakar Reddy of Wockhardt Hospital said.

“Cyanide powder is absorbed into the body very fast, especially if administered below the tongue. It prevents the cells from receiving oxygen. The victim turns blue and is dead within 5-10 minutes.”

The police said Mallika lived in Bangalore and that her husband had thrown her out in 1998. She apparently has three children but it’s not clear if they live with her.

She killed the first time in October 1999, city police chief N. Achyut Rao said. Victim Mamata, 30, was at her home in Hoskote, 30km from Bangalore. The next victim in 2000 escaped death by screaming and bringing her family rushing. Mallika was accused of theft and jailed for six months.

The last five murders took place in dharamshalas where no one could have come to the victims’ aid. Elizabeth, 61, was promised the return of her missing grandson, Yashodamma a cure for her asthma.

Rao said the police seized several dharamshala keys from Mallika, who used to lock the rooms before leaving, as well as gold and silver jewellery, mobiles and SIM cards.

Cyanide, a powder at room temperature, is lethal as solid, liquid or gas. It can kill when mixed with food, and kills faster when administered on an empty stomach.

The name “potassium cyanide” had acquired a romantic resonance in Bengal after the 1930 storming of Writers’ Buildings by the legendary Benoy-Badal-Dinesh who, when surrounded, attempted to swallow the chemical.

LTTE cadres are said to have a cyanide capsule hung from their neck, which they can bite to release the chemical if caught. During the hunt for Rajiv Gandhi’s killers, two LTTE men, being treated at a Bangalore nursing home, had put cyanide vials into their mouths as soon as the police arrived.


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