Back in the days when it was freely available, Thallium was known as Inheritance Powder or the Poisoner’s Poison.
Look what Poison did to their hair!
On New Year’s Day in 1988, Abdullah Ali, an Iraqi businessman who had been living in London for eight years, was taken ill with flu-like symptoms and was admitted to hospital. There his condition rapidly deteriorated — his hair fell out, he developed excruciating skin and joint pain, and paralysis and respiratory failure began to set in; 15 days later he was dead.
Abdullah Ali is thought to have been a victim of Saddam Hussein’s secret service, which used thallium sulphate as its poison of choice. France also used the poison to kill a guerrilla leader in Cameroon in 1960, and the United States is suspected of using thallium in one of its many attempts to kill President Castro of Cuba. A chemist conceived a plan to poison the Cuban leader by putting thallium powder in his shoes. This method would have caused his hair to fall out, robbing him of his iconic beard, as it destroys hair follicles.
Castro didn’t always have a beard
Thallium was used medically and cosmetically before its lethal effects became known. Though the fatal dose for an adult is 800 milligrams, or less than a quarter of a teaspoonful, 500 milligrams would be prescribed to treat ringworm. Thallium depilatory creams were also popular in the 1930s.
In the 1950s, Thallium was the poison of choice in two high profile murder trials in Sydney.
Perhaps the most well known of the thallium poisoners was 4ft 5″ tall grandmother, Caroline Grills, who killed four members of her family and attempted to murder another three by adding thallium to her home made treats. This sweet looking 63-year-old serial killer was sentenced to life in prison, spending the rest of her days in Long Bay Gaol where she became known by the other inmates as ‘Aunt Thally’.
The other notorious thallium poisoning was of rugby league star, Bobby Lulham who played for Balmain and Australia. Lulham and his wife, Judith lived with his mother-in-law Veronica Monty, with whom he was having an affair whilst Judy was attending church.
In 1952 Veronica poisoned Bobby Lulham, adding thallium to his mug of Milo. Lulham eventually recovered and Veronica Monty was charged with attempted murder. She admitted to poisoning Lulham but claimed it was an accident, stating she had meant to poison herself as she could not bear the guilt of her illicit affair and the betrayal of her daughter.
Milo and pistachio cheesecake found here
Newspapers focused on the sexual details of this case which acquired colossal proportions because of these ‘scandalous’ revelations. It seems the reading public revelled in the opportunity to gaze into the domestic life of a man they regarded as the ‘average Australian bloke ’, yet whose marital problems and sexual indiscretions presented a very different picture to the expected domestic scene. Women seemed fascinated by the Monty trial and many took a particularly active interest in the case. It was reported that at each day’s hearing a crowd of women bustled into the small courtroom as soon as the doors opened, cut lunches in their string bags, ready to listen to the details of Lulham’s domestic attachments.
Veronica Monty was acquitted of the crime, and a few days later, Judith Lulham filed for divorce. Bobby Lulham’s marriage was over and so was his career with Balmain. He slipped into obscurity and two years later his ex mother in law put a gun to her head in a hotel room.
photo found at joe’sblog