Scammer drugs widows for thalis

The woman wins over the trust of her victims by offering to pray for their dead husbands, and promises to give them grocery vouchers

The scammer is a young woman around her 30s. Picture:

Published Feb 25, 2024


A scammer is on the prowl in Phoenix, drugging elderly Hindu widows with high doses of sleeping tablets mixed in turmeric water before robbing them of their thalis, cash and other valuables.

The woman wins over the trust of her victims by offering to pray for their dead husbands, and promises to give them grocery vouchers.

Thanga Moodley, 82, from Campbells Town, is one of the victims.

She had been drugged with “high doses of sleeping tablets”, which could have killed her had she not received immediate medical attention.

Sheldon Moodley, her grandson, said last Thursday the woman came to the area posing as his grandmother’s niece.

“She knew my grandmother’s name and asked neighbours where she lived. Someone from the area pointed out the house. My grandmother was home with her helper and tenants, who were in the outbuilding at the back of the property.”

Sheldon said the woman came to the driveway gate and called out Moodley’s name.

“When my grandmother came to the gate the woman said she was there to give her a grocery voucher and my grandmother allowed her into the yard, and then into her home. She asked my grandmother if she was a widow and my grandmother said ‘yes’. My grandfather had passed on in June last year.”

Sheldon said the woman asked if she could do a prayer for my grandfather and Moodley agreed.

“They went into my grandmother’s bedroom and the woman asked for her thali and turmeric water, so she could conduct the prayer. The woman asked my grandmother’s helper to remain in another room during the prayer because she had eaten meat.”

Sheldon said during the prayer his grandmother’s eyes were closed and at some point he believed the woman had spiked the turmeric water.

“The woman gave my grandmother the turmeric water to drink and she immediately felt weak and collapsed. The woman took the thali and some cash before fleeing. The helper realised something was amiss and went to check on my grandmother. She found her semi-conscious and called the tenant and neighbours for help.”

Sheldon said the neighbours called his sister, who took her to the hospital.

“My grandmother was disorientated and drowsy. She was placed on a drip and blood tests were conducted on her. The attending doctor told me that she could have been drugged with a high dose of sleeping tablets and given her age she could have died.”

He said the woman had also tried to target another widow in the community.

“According to my grandmother she is a young woman, probably in her 30s. She is well-dressed and looks trustworthy. She is preying on the elderly because they are defenceless. My grandmother is shaken by the ordeal but thankfully she is recovering. We want residents to be alert so she is caught and we don’t want another person to fall victim to her scam.”

Gareth Naidoo, the spokesperson for KZN VIP Security, said there were multiple incidents reported to them recently.

“We have dealt with cases in Rydalvale, Redfern, Whetstone and now Campbells Town. The targets are elderly women and she gains their trust by offering them grocery vouchers. She uses different tactics to rob the women, one of them includes drugging her victims with spiked turmeric water during a prayer and then fleeing with their jewellery and other valuables.”

Naidoo said if community members come into contact with the woman they needed to report it to their community policing forum (CPF) and the police.

Moses Pillay, the spokesperson for Sector 1 policing in Phoenix, said his team had apprehended the woman in January and handed her over to police.

“Since November last year, she was targeting elderly women, mostly widows, who lived alone in the Whetstone and Redfern areas. She would befriend them by offering them grocery vouchers and once inside she drugged them, and stole their valuables including the wedding jewellery. In most cases, the women could not remember much. It seems like she is on the prowl again and has moved to another area.”

He said the scammer targeted the elderly because they were defenceless and trustworthy.

Pillay said they will be working on apprehending her again.

“For now we need the elderly in the community to be vigilant and not allow unknown people onto their property or in their homes no matter what they offer, or how trustworthy they seem.”

The police did not comment at the time of publication.


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