Durban - A poor domestic worker, who thought she struck it lucky when she found a job with a wealthy uMhlanga family, has now found herself on the wrong side of the law.
The domestic worker, known only as Thembi, went to extraordinary lengths to win the affection of her employers, the De Lange family.
In an attempt to secure her job, Thembi laced most of the consumables in the kitchen with a blue substance. But instead of the potion drawing the family closer to her, it backfired and she was arrested.
Amanda de Lange, her husband, Heindrich, and their four children became ill when they consumed the milk, juices, butter and yoghurt in their home.
De Lange said her family complained of foodstuffs tasting strange. When she made her youngest son a cup of Nesquik, he complained that the milk tasted weird. Her toddler daughter also complained and refused to drink it.
She thought that the milk had spoiled until her eldest son drank apple juice and said it, too, had a funny taste.
“I was confused as to what was going on. There was a strange smell in my home and when I tasted most of the stuff, they all tasted the same. It smelled like a mixture of Jeyes Fluid and fertiliser. It was horrible,” said De Lange.
She said her husband also drank a lot of the milk with his protein shake and porridge.
As suspicions arose, she looked into the milk bottle and juice to find a blue powdery residue at the bottom.
“I was so freaked out; I didn’t know what to do. I went on to check the yoghurt and it had the same smell. I was blown away when I noticed that the butter had also been cut in half and when I separated the halves, there was a powdery substance in between,” said De Lange.
After the discovery the family thought long and hard about who could be responsible for the contamination.
“We knew that it was our domestic worker. She spent the entire day alone on Friday and had enough time to contaminate our groceries. We were shocked because she was newly employed,” said De Lange.
They called the police. Two days later, when the domestic worker arrived at their home, she was questioned.
“I insisted that they search her bag. I was shocked that when we looked in the bag, we found both the blue powdery substance as well as a bottle of liquid that smelled like the substance in my home,” she said.
The family said they were confused as to what the motive could be, but a friend of their domestic worker told the family she did it so that the family would “love her” and never fire her.
A source with knowledge of the incident said Thembi had been recommended by the gardener to the De Lange family.
“She was very poor and had no food and when the family lost their domestic worker the gardener told them about Thembi. Thembi was so excited about working for a family in uMhlanga, she wanted them to love her. So she resorted to extreme measures to win their affection.”
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said that Durban North police were investigating a 47-year-old woman for common assault after it was alleged she had poisoned her employer’s family.
“The substance that the employer found in her possession will be sent for analysis. The docket was forwarded to the NPA for a decision and the decision is unknown at this stage,” Naicker said.
Following the incident the De Lange family fell ill and needed medical attention.
Their doctor, Inderen Naidoo, confirmed he had treated the family.
“I treated Heindrich and conducted blood tests on him first because he consumed the most of the substance. The blood results were shocking. He had severe leukocytosis meaning that his white blood cell count was high, causing an infection,” Naidoo said.
He said there was no other explanation for the sudden infection considering that he consumed the largest amount of the poison.
De Lange said the family would never employ a domestic worker again.
“My kids are traumatised. My youngest son hasn’t been sleeping well and they refused to eat food from home. I think that I am going to have to take them for counselling,” De Lange said.