don’t play ball with your mother in law

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 choiceFrance 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’.

Long Bay Gaol

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

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34 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My ex mother-in-law tried to poison me all the time. She called it “Sunday lunch”

  2. Just put me off Milo for life …

  3. I LOVED Poison. Well, technically I still do. Big hair for the win!

  4. Pistachio cheesecake? Even if there was a chance it could be poisoned, I’d risk it any time. Hmmm. Yum.

  5. They always say look at the mother in law before you get married, but I’m affeared he may have taken the advice too literally…

  6. Can’t we talk about happy things, as my mother in law is fond of asking, just when the conversation is getting interesting.

  7. Love the LDS poster, I just started reading a book called the 19th Wife, about Mormons-looks like it’s going to be a good read!

  8. Who are those pretty girls in the first pic?

    I don’t think women realize just how much men suffer for their baldness. I constantly complain about how my hair is prematurely gray, but the truth is that I don’t care if it turns purple. As long as it doesn’t fall out.

    Denmark!? Are you kidding? I thought the cold caused shrinkage?

    • Oh UB I love a bald shaved head – it’s so sexy!. and yes, Denmark! Who’d have thought?

  9. The only Thallium poisoner in the UK I can think of is Graham Young.. who got two bites at the murder game before and after a stint in Broadmoor.

    If you can find it a film called the Young Poisoner’s Handbook, a sort of biopic, is well worth a watch

    • I’ve seen that film, very enjoyable

  10. Now you’re making me wonder where I put my stash of thallium.

  11. I don’t have a word to say. I had no idea thallium was so bad, but it doesn’t surprise me that it has achieved status as a political assassination tool.

  12. Well, so much for the beneficial properties of religion if your husband is busy shagging mother-in-law while you’re praying to the Almighty.

  13. Now I’m quite glad my MIL wasn’t one of my fans.

  14. Castro looks like a young Burt Reynolds.

  15. One day baldness will be the height of fashion and everyone will pay top dollar for sprinklings of thallium at the hairdressers (or the “skulldressers”!).

  16. I remember “Unskinny Bop”. Rather liked it. Although the sexual confusion caused by me wanting to shag the lead singer still traumatizes me.

    Oops! Have I said that out loud?

    • Nope, didn’t hear a thing. Could you repeat it please?

  17. I love how women went to watch the trial with lunches in their bags. They were prepared for a day of entertainment. Maybe courts should sell popcorn and Coke.

  18. I miss the big hair of the 80’s, if only because it showed work ethic. You had to make a concerted effort into getting your hair to look like that.

  19. going to denmark


    • Denmark? I thought it was Chicago you were headed to 😉

      • I’m stopping in Denmark on my way back. For a few weeks.

  20. Mrs Grills was quite the looker wasn’t she?

  21. Well, now i know about this thallium i’ll be cooking all of my own meals from now on. lol

  22. I’m surprised old Alexander Litvinenko didn’t get a mention in this post. Poor old fella.

    My hair fell out many years back, perhaps something to do with Queenwilly’s cooking… Suddenly I feel all Emperor Augustus.

    The King

    • I didn’t mention Litvinenko because I thought he was too well known. I knew I could rely on someone else to bring him up in the comments 🙂

      PS: description of Emperor Augustus follows

      “He was unusually handsome … He had clear, bright eyes … His teeth were wide apart, small, and ill-kept; his hair was slightly curly and inclining to golden; his eyebrows met. His ears were of moderate size, and his nose projected a little at the top and then bent ever so slightly inward. His complexion was between dark and fair. He was short of stature …”

      Doesn’t sound a bit like you. Except for the handsome part.

  23. HAHA, I had to post the Mormon poster on Facebook.

  24. Good selection of photos. The one of Grills is creepy. I love the last photo. It creates quite a mood.

  25. I think I will stick with razor blades… to shave my legs, that is.

    • Have you thought about trading in the razor for the laser Scarlet?

  26. Damn! I’m sooooo living in the wrong country. If I can’t move to Denmark – I may as well come back to Aussie. Sooo enjoying catching up on the posts 😉

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