“You might get some serial killers who are born with a chip missing, but for the most part I don’t think anyone is born bad.”
-Benicio Del Toro
It is always believed that a woman who brings precious lives into the world cannot be so barbaric to end them. But the scenario is not always the same as thought to be. As in any patriarchal society, it was believed that only men who hold qualities like strength, control, forcefulness etc. can perform heinous crimes and woman who uphold the qualities like nurturing, forgiving, kind etc. can never any monstrous crime. But as the times changed, women entered into the criminal world not only due to the dire conditions, but also for seeking pleasure. As we come to know about any serious crime being committed by any women, it becomes hard for us to believe as a society how can someone’s mother, daughter, wife or sister can do something so heartless. But still gender has no role to play in performance of a criminal activity.
Kempamma was born in Kaggalipura, Karanataka during 1970s. She got married to a tailor and had three children with him. But her husband abandoned her when her chit fund business suffered losses. She was thrown out on the streets. She started doing odd jobs sometimes as a domestic helper while sometimes working under goldsmith’s assistant. She then started committing petty crimes such as stealing at her workplace.
ENTRY INTO CRIME
She executed her first killing on October 19, 1999 in Hoskote and her victim was Mamatha Rajan, a 30 year old woman, whom Kempamma killed while she was praying at temple.
Kempamma had a particular way of choosing her targets. It was purported that Kempamma often visited a temples near Bangalore and went for women who appeared to be in despair. After determining her target, she would win their trust by listening to their problems and consoling them. She would then advise them to perform a mandal pooja which would cure all their worries. She would pretend to be a godly woman who was learned in scriptures. She would then offer the victim to arrange for the pooja at a temple on the periphery of the city. She would tell the victims to come to the ritual wearing their best clothes and jewellery. Once the victim arrived, she would commence with the ritual. She told her victims to close their eyes and forced them to drink cyanide-laced water or eat cyanide-laced food as a part of the ritual. She got her hands on the cyanide from jewellery shops, where it was used for cleaning gold jewellery. She pretended to have learned about killing with cyanide from movies. From this modus operandi, she gained the popular nickname “Cyanide Mallika.” She would press the noses of victims while they drank or ate the food. Once dead, she would rob them of their money and valuables. She used to change her identity after every murder that she used to commit.
Although it is believed that Kempamma may have killed several women but still she was only sentenced for six of them. Her second victim was Elizabeth, 52 from Sanatur. She was offering prayer to find her missing granddaughter. Kempamma allured her to Kabalamma temple and killed her in the same manner. Her third target was Yashodhamma, 60. She was murdered at Siddaganga Mutt, Kyata-Sandra during December 2007.She got attracted by Kempammma’s offer to perform a pooja to get her rid of asthma. Her fourth victim was Muniyamma, from Yelahanka, who aspired to sing devotional songs and used to visit the temple for same. She was murdered at Yadiyur Siddalngeshwar Temple. Her fifth victim was Pillama. She temple priest at Hebbal temple and got lured when Kempamma promised her to offer a new arch at the temple. She was killed at Maddur Vyadyanathapura. One of her last victim was Nagaveni, a 30 year old woman, who was childless and used to pray for a son. She was killed while she was sleeping. It is also believed that Kempamma might have killed one more victim, Renuka, a 22 year old lady. It is alleged that Kempamma might have killed Renuka, at the temple dormitory of a pilgrim centre at Kolar District on December 7, 2006. The incident came to light when Renuka’s husband, who was working in Dubai, reported her missing. Renuka’s sister, Mani asserted that she and Kempmma used to work as a house helper for the same house and Kempamma used to visit her house frequently and befriended Renuka, whom she lured her by promising that performing a ritual would help her giving birth to a male baby. Many families came forward with the complain that their missing family member might have been killed by Kempamma, as they were in some connection with her.
Kempamma was first arrested by Bidadi police in 2001, when she tried to rob jewellery from a house where she went to perform a ritual. She was released after 6 months of imprisonment.
She was again arrested on December 31, 2008 at a bus stand, while she was trying to sell the jewellery of one of the victims. She had the valuable that she still from the victims. She admitted her guilt, when the police arrested her.
But this was not the end, as Kempamma was again convicted for multiple murders. She was consecutively given death sentence in 2010 and 2012 for the murders of Munniyamma and Nagveni respectively. But her punishment for Nagveni’s death was commuted to life in prison as only circumstantial evidence was found against her. Kempamma became the first woman to be awarded daeth penalty in Karnataka.
In 2017, Kempamma again hit the headlines when she became the jail mate of V.K. Sashikala, confidante of late AIADMK supremo, J. Jayalalithaa. It was alleged that Kempamma tried to meet Sashikala several times due to which she was shifted to another jail, as she posed a threat to Sashikala.
K. D. Kempamma aka Cynide Mallika is still a mystery for many of us. Still the questions like what circumstances led her to perform these crimes go around in our minds. Some of us might think that maybe her formative years might have any hidden answers for her creulity or maybe because she herself had also been a victim to any criminal offence. But when thought deeply, one can understand that she performed these crimes due to financial motives only.
2. Anand, Pinky. “Women who kill: The story behind India’s first woman serial killer”. Daily O. Daily O. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
3. “Serial killer Mallika’s death sentence reduced to life”. NDTV. NDTV. Retrieved 10 May 2018
4. “First woman serial killer nabbed”. The Times of India. No. Jan 1, 2008. The Times of India. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
5. “Sasikala’s neighbour in jail ‘Cyanide’ Mallika shifted: Report”. The Indian Express. The Indian Express. Retrieved 10 May 2018
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