Preying on Prayers
Mallika, whose real name is K. D. Kempanna, apparently hung around various Bangalore temples, masquerading as a religious woman who was skilled in pujas and religious rituals. She was adept at spotting women devotees desperately looking for solutions to domestic problems or medical cures. Once she had befriended them, she would convince them that she could help by conducting powerful pujas and rituals at a temple far removed from the victim’s home. She would also give them various instructions; for example, she would invariably instruct the soon-to-be-victim to wear her finest jewelry in order to please the gods.
After travelling to the selected temple, and under the guise of needing privacy, Mallika would rent a room in the choultry attached to it. Once inside the room, she would begin performing the alleged pujas and ask the victim to close her eyes. Then, in a sudden movement, she would grasp the victim by the hair, pull her head back, and quickly thrust cyanide into her mouth. The victim would be dead within 5 minutes and Mallika would leave with any valuables that were available.
According to local news stories, the first of Mallika’s six murders was in October 1999. The next five occurred over a one week period ending in December 2007, when she arrested trying to sell her victims’ possessions.
One of a Kind
While serial killing is typically thought to be a western phenomena in general, and a U.S. one in particular, India is no stranger to serial murder. In fact, Thug Behram, member of the infamous Thuggee cult in the early 1800′s, was credited with personally strangling 125 men and witnessed the strangling of 150 more, was one of the most prolific serial killers who ever lived.
However, Mallika is being touted as the first female Indian serial killer and try as I might, I haven’t been able to find another one. In fact, according to Dr. male Indian criminals are rare in general; according to Dr Rajni, Psychiatrist, Central Prison, Parapanna Agrahara there are only 150 females in a prison population of 4,800.
One of the most interesting comments Dr. Rajni made was that most of the women in India who committed murder were married before age 18; fortunately, this risk factor, if it is one, has declined by almost 50% in the past 7 years. Try as I might, I could not find out when Mallika married; news articles are filled with conflicting details. Most say she abandoned her family in the late 1990′s, a few say her husband deserted her after she went into debt, and the reported number of children she has ranges from 0 to 3. However, while we don’t know much about her past, we do know about her future; last week, she received her second death sentence.