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K.D. Kempamma: First Women Serial Killer to Get Death Penalty popular as Cyanide Mallika

In India, women are usually considered as caregivers and nurturers. Still, a tag of cold-blooded murderers is quite hard to accept. K.D. Kempamma, infamous with the title “Cyanide Mallika,” was the first woman in India who was awarded a death penalty. Here’s the story of how she got her name.

Family life:

Kempamma came from Kaggalipura, Karnataka, in India, who lived with her husband and children. She ran a chit fund business, and her husband was a tailor. However, her business had taken so many losses and pitfalls that her husband, very heartlessly, asked her to leave the house and never return.

This was in 1998, and from here on, she moved around looking for work to earn a living, and eventually got a job as the assistant to a goldsmith. She even worked as a domestic worker stealing valuables and other goods from the houses she worked.


In the year 1999, a year after her husband had abandoned her, she, for the first time, killed a 30-year-old woman called Mamatha Rajan in Hoskote near Bangalore, India, in a temple while Rajan was offering prayers.

The next few years, until 2007, were reasonably murder-free in Kempamma’s life. Still, she did not refrain from crime, she indulged in stealing wherever she could. In the year 2001, Kempamma was arrested and convicted for six months for having attempted to steal some jewels in a house where was meant to perform a ritual.

She went to several temples in and around the city of Bangalore and watch out for women who looked particularly distressed, in other words, gullible women. Once identified, she would seek them out and encourage them to speak their minds to her, about the problems they had been facing in their lives, and Kempamma, pretending to be a woman religious and pious, would assure them that she could resolve their issues.

She asked these women to deck up in their finest clothes and jewels and accompany her to another temple. She would then proceed to feed them Prashad or “holy water” laced with cyanide that she had picked up from jewelry shops (cyanide is used to clean gold).

Once the woman had stopped breathing, she would rob her of all her money and jewels. After each robbery-killing, she assumed a new identity before proceeding to repeat the process once again with another woman. From here on emerged Kempamma’s popular name, “Cyanide Mallika.” Kempamma’s crimes went on till the year 2007. Still, her significant offenses were more or less saturated towards the end of these eight years. She killed five women in a matter of three months, between October 10 and December 18 2007, making it a grand total of six victims.

Kempamma’s modus operandi makes it seem as though her crimes were entirely based on her greed and want for money, and it probably was this way. Her second victim, first of 2007, was Elizabeth, a woman who was on the search for her missing granddaughter. Kempamma lured her to the Kaballamma Temple and performed her “ritual” and killed her in October 2007. Her third victim was Yashodhamma, who suffered from asthma.

With the promise of curing the same, Kempamma brought her to Siddaganga and murdered her. Muniyamma was Kempamma’s fourth victim, who wished to be a devotional singer and was killed at a temple in Yadiyur, a taluk at a short distance from Bangalore.

Kempamma’s fifth victim Pillamma was a priest at a temple in Hebbal. Kempamma promised to sponsor to build a new arch for that temple and simply killed Pillamma at a temple close to Mandya. The sixth and final victim of Cyanide Mallika was a poor childless woman who only wanted a son – Nagaveni was killed in her sleep in While she was convicted for the cold-blooded murders of these six women, it is believed that Kempamma may have killed other women too. This includes a young woman called Renuka who wanted to give birth to a son but could not. The profile fit Kempamma’s usual profiles, but this was not proved. A few other women had also gone missing, some of whose bodies were found in 2009 and further connected to Kempamma.

Arrest and Death:

Kempamma was caught and arrested on December 31 of 2008, at a bus stop in attempts to sell jewelry that she had taken off of her victims. Many other jewels belonging to her other victims had been found, too. She was eventually given the death penalty for her murders, which was later commuted to a life sentence.

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