Dulcie Bodsworth was the unlikeliest serial killer. She was loved everywhere she went, and the townsfolk of Wilcannia, which she called home in the late 1950s, thought of her as kind and caring.
The officers at the local police station found Dulcie witty and charming, and looked forward to the scones and cakes she generously baked and delivered for their morning tea. That was one side of her. Only her daughter Hazel saw the real Dulcie. And what she saw terrified her.
Dulcie was in fact a cold, calculating killer who, by 1958, had put three men in their graves – one of them the father of her four children, Ted Baron – in one of the most infamous periods of the state’s history. She would have got away with it all had it not been for Hazel.
The following piece is an extract from My Mother, A Serial Killer, written by award-winning journalist Janet Fife-Yeomans together with Hazel Baron:
Hazel Baron was nine when she first suspected her mother was a murderer.
Don’t tell your dad about this. Don’t tell your dad about that. Don’t tell him about the sneaky hours in the dark on the big back seat of the family’s American-built Nash car with young Harry, nineteen years her mother’s junior. Harry was only supposed to be ‘helping with the kids’. As a kid herself, Hazel did what she was told and never even considered telling on her mum. Dulcie was also quick with her right hand to dish out a slap or worse. In those days, no one questioned using corporal punishment to keep children in line.
Looking back, Hazel’s suspicions should have been aroused on the night when her mother, Dulcie, then known as Hazel Dulcie Baron, gave the kids warm milk and Aspro tablets before bed. It was the first time in their lives that Hazel, her brother Allan, eight, and the five-year-old twins, Margaret and Jim, had been given warm milk to drink. Dulcie wasn’t much of a mollycoddling mother, treating her four children more like mini grown-ups. But this had been a big day, she said, and the milk and Aspros would help them sleep.
Her attention made them all feel special for a change.
As the kids sat with their blankets around themselves, keeping warm by the campfire, Dulcie just pulled the cardigan she wore over her dress closer to her chest.
It was quiet and dark as she heated the milk in a pan over the burning logs, the only light the sparks flying up. The ribbons of smoke twisted into the air like ghost gums along the riverbanks.
Hazel could just make out the outlines of their two tents a few metres away at the edge of their camp.
Hazel already suspected that their family might not be quite normal but she really had nothing to compare it with. Everyone had their secrets, didn’t they?
The reason for the warm milk and Aspros was snoring on a stretcher bed near the tent flap. Wednesday, 30 August 1950, had been a big day because their dad, Ted Baron, forty-eight, had come home from hospital.