By Tracey Matthies
A SERIAL killer born in Korumburra became the real-life model for a popular character in the hit television show, Prisoner.
Dulcie Bodsworth (1909-2008) was charged and convicted of the murders of three men in the 1950s, although two convictions were overturned on appeal. She later pleaded guilty to manslaughter in one of the killings and was sentenced to life in jail on the conviction which stuck.
Born Hazel Dulcie Ramage, but known as Dulcie, she married three times and gave birth to 13 children, including stillborn quadruplets.
One of her daughters, Hazel Baron, tells the story of her murderous mother in her book, My Mother, A Serial Killer, by Hazel Baron and journalist Janet Fife-Yeomans, published three years ago.
The book was widely described as “the shocking, true story of a brave daughter”.
“A gripping and shocking story of a serial killer mother, and the brave daughter who brought her to justice. Dulcie Bodsworth was the unlikeliest serial killer,” one publicity blurb said.
“Loved everywhere she went, 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 looked forward to the scones and cakes the generous Dulcie baked for them and delivered for their morning tea along with her wit and charm.
“That was one side of her.
“Only her daughter Hazel saw the real Dulcie. And what she saw terrified her.”
It was Hazel who eventually reported her mother to police and went on to give evidence against her at multiple trials.
Hazel was just nine years old when she first suspected her mother was a murderer – the victim was Hazel’s own father, Dulcie’s second husband, Edwin James Grey Baron, who drowned in the Murray River at Buronga in 1950.
Dulcie was convicted of murdering Milton Samuel Overton by poisoning with arsenic at Wilcannia in 1956 while her conviction for the murder of Thomas Tregenza, who died of serious burns at Wilcannia in 1958, was overturned on appeal.
Chronology of murders
• August 30, 1950 – Edward James Grey Baron (40), Hazel’s second husband, dies. Drowned, Murray river, Buronga.
• 1955 – set fire to house in NSW (charged December 4, 1964).
• April 19, 1956 – Milton Samuel Overton (44). Arsenic, lamb chop. At Netallie Station.
• January 17, 1958 – Thomas Tregenza, at Wilcannia (70), dies. Burned to death in bed. Methylated spirits. £2000 bank account.
• 1964 – Overton corpse exhumed; arsenic found.
• June 10, 1965 – trial begins for the Baron murder.
• March 24, 1966 – Dulcie and her future husband, Harry Bodsworth, sentenced to five years for the murder of Baron.
• November 19, 1966 – retrial granted to Dulcie.
• February 22, 1967 – second trial for Tregenza murder. Acquitted.
• August 23, 1967 – Dulcie sentenced to life for Overton murder.
Dulcie’s infamy carried over onto the small screen with the production of the hit show, Prisoner, which was broadcast from 1979 until 1986.
According to Hazel’s book, Dulcie somehow became involved, receiving payments from the Grundy production company, and calling herself a consultant.
The character, Lizzie Birdsworth, was said to have been based on Dulcie Bodsworth, with similarities in their crimes and cunning behaviours.
Unfortunately, the real-life Dulcie wasn’t such a model citizen after her release and was accused of starting several fires and endangering the lives of fellow nursing home residents.