CAROLINE GRILLS, AUSTRALIAN POISONER

By Tim Lambert

Caroline Grills poisoned people using a poison called thallium, which was often used in rat poison. Grills was born Caroline Mickelson in Balmain, Sydney about 1888. (Her exact date of birth is not known). On 22 April 1908 she married a man named Richard William Grills. He was a laborer. The Grills had 6 children, 5 boys and girl.

By the 1940s Caroline Grills was a short, dumpy old woman. In 1947 she began killing people. Her 87 year old stepmother Christine Mickelson died. In January 1948 an 84 year old woman named Angelina Thomas, a relative of her husband, died. Her sister in law Mary Ann Mickelson, aged 60 was the next to die. Then in October 1948 a man called John Lundberg died. Finally Eveline Lundberg, the widow of John Lundberg and her daughter Christine Downey both fell ill. Fortunately both survived.

Caroline Grills was caught when John Downey, husband of Christine Downey spotted her dropping something into a cup of tea intended for his mother in law. He switched cups and poured some of the contaminated tea into a bottle, which he took to the police. They found thallium in it. Caroline Grills was arrested but in the end she was only tried for the attempted murder of Eveline Lundberg because of a lack of evidence in the other cases. Prosecutor Mick Rooney said Grills was 'a killer who poisoned for sport, for fun, for the kicks she got out of it, for the Hell of it, for the thrill that she and she alone, in the world knew the cause of the victim's suffering'. On 15 October 1953 Caroline Grills was convicted of attempted murder. It took the jury only 12 minutes to find her guilty. Grill was sentenced to death. However the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. Caroline Grills or 'Aunt Thally' as she was called in prison died on 6 October 1960.

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