Hazel Baron and Janet Fife-Yeomans, My Mother, A Serial Killer

HarperCollins Australia Publishers, 239 pp., ISBN: 9781460754528, p/bk, AUS$32.99

Hazel Baron, the daughter of convicted murderer Dulcie Bodsworth, collaborated with journalist Janet Fife-Yeomans to tell her story in My Mother, A Serial Killer (2018).

There were two sides to Dulcie Bodsworth. There was the caring and kind woman everyone enjoyed spending time with, and there was the cold, manipulative woman who was determined to have her own way, even if that meant committing murder. Dulcie’s daughter, Hazel, knew the awful truth. Hazel first suspected her mother was a murderer when she was only nine years old.

After three murders, including the murder of Hazel’s father, Ted Baron, in Mildura in 1950 and two men in Wilcannia in 1956 and 1958, Dulcie and her husband Henry Bodsworth, were finally charged in December 1964. “The truth wasn’t always nice but it was always the truth. The truth was that it was Hazel who had dobbed her mother in. The truth was that she knew her mother would have kept on killing if she had not been caught” (p. 11).

It is easy to dismiss difficult family relationships with observations that “all families are complicated in their own way”. Hazel’s story makes it clear that some are far more complicated than others. This is a story of three victims, of a daughter tipping off the police, of the co-accused, of traumatic days in a courtroom, of sentencing and (for Dulcie) of thirteen and a half years behind prison bars were she would inspire the creation of the “mischievous lovable old lag, Lizzie Birdsworth” (p. 218) in the popular television series Prisoner (1979-1986). Dulcie would even sit with one of the writers from Grundy, advising on prison life and prison slang, giving “herself the grand-sounding title of ‘consultant’ to the production” (p. 222).

The impact that a parent can have on their children, and that “even though [Hazel and her brother Allan] were adults, Dulcie could still both rule and ruin their lives” (p. 179), is clear throughout the text. Indeed, years after Dulcie’s death in Sydney in 2008 her influence is still keenly felt by those who were close to her. There is within this book a story of strained forgiveness. When Fife Yeomans asks Hazel how “she could have had anything to do with her mother after Dulcie had murdered Hazel’s father, Hazel had an answer that summed up, as only she could, her relationship with Dulcie: I don’t hate her; I don’t even dislike her. She was like a neighbour and I did the right thing by her” (p. 237).

My Mother, A Serial Killer is a fascinating story, neatly told.

 

Reviewed by Dr Rachel Franks, May 2018

For a preview of the book or to purchase online, visit the HarperCollins Australia website: https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460754528/my-mother-a-serial-killer/

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