Soon after Caroline’s conviction, thallium was banned from sale.
Life was one of constant movement from that point on, with the family never settling in one place for too long until Caroline inherited her father’s home at Gladesville after his death in 1948.
In her photograph she looks like a loveable lady, whom you'd gladly take home-baked goodies and a cup of tea from. She would often bake for her extensive family and was known as 'Aunt Carrie'. This 'lovely' old lady was later found guilty of murdering four members of her family by planting poison in her baked goods and tea.
Throughout 1951 - 1942 various family members became ill, including Mrs Lundberg, although they suffered with this illness, they all survived.
John Downey was another victim who became ill. He had read a story in a newspaper in October of 1952 about poisonings; this raised his suspicions about 'Aunt Carrie'. He spied her reaching into her apron pocket, dropping something into the cup of tea she was carrying. He had the smarts about him and switched the cups, taking a sample of the tea to police. The sample was tested and contained thallium. That was enough for investigators to examine the deaths of the other members of Grills’ family.
Christine Mickelson - stepmother - died November 1947
John Lundberg - husbands brother in law - died late 1948
Angelina Thomas - husbands sister in law - died January 1948
Mary Anne Mickelson - sister in law - died 1948
Eveline Lundberg - sister in law
Christine Downey - Eveline's daughter
John Downey – Christine’s husband
Bobby Lulham - son in law and prominent Balmain Rugby League player
Two bodies were exhumed and traces of thallium was found in both. Two other bodies had been cremated and could not be tested for poison. At a coroner’s inquest, witnesses recalled Grills bringing them drinks, and how eager she was to help with preparing food and tea. The coroner found 'Aunt Carrie' responsible for four deaths, but these cases were dropped. Caroline was only convicted for the attempted murder of Mrs Lundberg in October 1953.
In court she would have random outbursts of laughter when evil things were stated against her. This only cemented the general consensus that she was a malevolent killer.
On 15 October 1953, after only 12 minutes of deliberation, Caroline Grills was found guilty of the attempted murder of Mrs Lundberg and sentenced to death. She appealed, and although this was dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeal, her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. The State Reformatory for Women became her home for the next six and a half years and 'Aunt Carrie' became affectionately dubbed by other inmates as 'Aunt Thally' due to her poison of choice.
Caroline died in 1960. She was rushed to Prince Henry Hospital, and later died of peritonitis. She was cremated with Anglican rites, attended by her husband, daughter and three of her sons surviving her. The undercurrents of envy, anger or revenge that pushed her to kill so many of her family can only be guessed at.
Put together by Ashley Hall 2013