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True crime. Casually done.

The ABC Murders: South Africa’s Bloodiest

September 1995. Everyone’s favorite President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, has cancelled a trip overseas in order to tend to a horrific situation unfolding at home. Along with officials from the department of justice, he travels to Boksburg (just a few miles east of Johannesburg) to give a press conference.

On national television, he addresses the people of the cities and townships, asking their help in identifying the menace whose crimes have been plaguing the nation for over a year — dubbed the ‘ABC killer’ by the press. It’s hardly the most intimidating nickname, chosen because the serial killer’s victims had been turning up in the vicinity of Atteridgeville, Boksburg, and Cleveland.

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Authorities didn’t know it at the time, but the killer had already claimed a staggering 31 victims, and would go on to kill at least five more. That figure could potentially be as high as 72, but in either case, by the time he was done, the ABC killer would go down as South Africa’s worst ever serial killer to date.

This is the story of his sickening spree, troubled origins, and dramatic capture by Johannesburg’s finest.

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A is for Atrocities 

Illustration

It was the year before Mandela’s public plea that the bodies first started turning up, in fields around the Johannesburg suburb of Cleveland. The first was discovered on July 17th, with three messages written on the corpse:

“She a beach” [sic]

“I am no fighting with you please” [sic] 

“We must stay here for as long as you don’t understand.”

Is it not a little ironic that someone named the ABC Killer struggled so much with spelling? It seemed like these scrawled messages were meant for the eyes of the police officers — an attempt to justify the horrific scene in front of them. The woman had been beaten, raped, and strangled to death. Before leaving her where she lay, the killer had draped a piece of clothing over her face, and weighed it down with rocks. She was later identified as 18-year-old Maria Monene Monama.

Over the next six months, a swathe of other bodies would be found around Cleveland — some sources say as many as 15 — all displaying the same modus operandi. All of the victims were female, young, black, and unemployed. 

They had seemingly been lured out to remote areas around town, where the murderer would rape and strangle them. Some were found blindfolded, or with their hands and feet bound. The murder weapon was usually the victim’s own underwear. In some cases, the families even received phone calls from the killer afterwards, who got sick pleasure out of taunting them.

The South African police were unaccustomed to this kind of organized, methodical serial killer. Criminologist Rika Snyman explained that, in the old days of apartheid, these kinds of killers could easily fly under the radar, so long as they kept their crimes restricted to the predominantly black slums. 

But after the fall of apartheid, they began tracking cases and linking together murders, resulting in a wave of identifications. At a current total of 117, the country actually has the third highest amount of serial killers in the entire world.

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The Arrest of David Selepe

The cops would soon be adding another mark to that tally, when the perpetrator of the Cleveland killings made a fatal mistake. Through interviewing the victims’ families, detectives discovered that many of the women had meetings arranged with a mysterious individual, who claimed to have a job offer for them. This explained the formal clothing most were wearing. Thankfully, their mystery recruiter accidentally revealed himself soon after. 

A young woman by the name of Amanda Thete was the second victim of this South African Strangler, found dead on August 6th. The following December, a man was recorded by an ATM camera, withdrawing money with her credit card.This was David Selepe, a Johannesburg native now charged with the murder of the 26-year-old victim, and a strong suspect in at least five other deaths in the area (potentially as many as 15). 

Investigators never got much of a chance to quiz him on exactly how many he was involved in, because the very next week, the front page headlines read: Suspect in Serial Murders Killed by Police. 

To hear the cops tell it, while on a walkthrough of various sites involved in the murders, David Selepe grabbed a tree branch from the ground, and smacked a detective to the floor. He was raising the branch in the air to strike him again, when another officer shot him in the head. He died in hospital that day.

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After that, the officer who delivered the killshot was exonerated on the ground of self defense, while the other was reportedly treated for a bit of back pain. Another case closed. Good job boys. 

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But if the ABC killer (at this point just the C killer) really was six feet under now, then why didn’t the bodies stop piling up? 

The next six months saw death after death in and around the town of Atteridgeville, Pretoria (around 40 miles north of Joburg). The Pretoria Murder and Robbery team established a task force to investigate the crimes. Their first task was to establish a definite link between each murder.

What they discovered was that all of them displayed the exact same methodology as the Cleveland murders, meaning the police down here had either gotten the wrong guy, or he wasn’t working alone. Even worse was the fact that the killer’s methods were becoming increasingly sadistic.

On April 12th 1995, 25-year-old Letta Nomthandazo Ndlangamandla was discovered dead on the outskirts of town, the fourth victim that year. The very next day, the body of her infant son Sibusiso was discovered nearby. Apparently he had sustained a head injury, likely when his mother was taken by the killer, and died of exposure. At 2 years old, he was the killer’s youngest victim.

This triggered a wave of interest from the South African press, who were usually preoccupied with stories of crimes against the affluent white community, rather than the invisible residents of the black townships. It was then that the phantom of the ABC Killer first started to enter the popular imagination — a short-lived burst of media coverage which fizzled out within a few weeks. 

It would be a few months yet before panic fully gripped the country. That was when the killer finally earned the B in his nickname, with a horrifying discovery in Boksburg that sent the country into a full-blown panic…

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B is for The Boksburg Bodies

On September 16th, 1995, an off-duty police officer was out in the scrubland around Boksburg, hunting rabbits with his dog. Suddenly, the dog caught the scent of something, and ran off the trail with his master in tow. It wasn’t a rabbit he’d found.

The dog led the officer to a woman’s body, brutally beaten and abandoned near the entrance to one of the mine shafts, which are scattered around the area. When forensic investigators arrived at the scene, they soon discovered that there wasn’t just one victim there; they were standing on top of a mass grave.

Ten bodies were exhumed at the site, some severely decomposed, in an operation which lasted two days. It’s thought that the killer might have taunted his newest victims by showing off the bodies, before subjecting them to the exact same fate.

The link between these victims and those found in Atteridgeville was quickly established, and the police revealed to the press that they were potentially dealing with the worst recorded serial killer in the history of South Africa.

The event brought media attention to a fever pitch, especially when Nelson Mandela himself visited the scene of the crime, then gave the speech that we began today’s episode with. The residents of South Africa’s poor, black communities were understandably skeptical about trusting the police (on account of the whole racial subjugation thing). So the president urged them to aid the authorities in capturing the killer that was terrorizing their towns, saying: “They are not the enemy any more. They need our support.”

Some members of the public had already come forward to report their suspicions. On July 17th, a man named Absalom Sangweni spotted a couple trespassing in a field in North Boksburg, and warned them that it was off limits.

The man and woman just ignored his shouts, and kept going. Within an hour, the man returned alone. He stuffed a “shiny object” into his trouser pocket, and looked around nervously, before taking off. Sangweni was suspicious about the fate of the young woman, so he walked into the field to investigate, finding the strangled body of Josephine Mlangeni.

Unfortunately, her killer had been too far away for Sangweni to offer up any concrete details…

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Mindhunter Takes on South Africa

That was as close as the police would come to a positive ID on their suspect for many months yet. With the added pressure of intense media attention, they scrambled to produce a psychological profile of the killer, so they might predict his next move. 

South Africa’s very first criminal profiler, Micki Pistorius took the lead. She drafted up an image of a man in his late 20s or early thirties — black, on account of the witness testimony, and the fact he could move unnoticed in the predominantly black areas he hunted in. He was likely somewhat handsome, and charming enough to win the trust of his victims. Despite all that, he quite obviously hated women.

Pistorius also reckoned her mark was probably divorced, or separated from his spouse, and enjoyed visiting bars — possibly had past convictions for theft or fraud, and enjoyed collecting mementos from each of his victims. She also reckoned that the killer:

“…has a high sex drive and reads pornography. His fantasies, to which he masturbates, are aggressive, and he believes that women are merely objects to be abused. He enjoys charming and controlling women. When he approaches a victim, it is done in a very calculating way, and he is very conscious that he is eventually going to kill the victim, and savors the thought while he softens her up.”

Yes, she just called him a wanker. If that all sounds very specific, I reckon you’ll be blown away with just how spot on it mostly turned out to be. 

Pistorius was still a relative rookie at profiling in those days, so she called in help from the states, in the form of retired FBI veteran Robert Ressler. He was the inspiration for one of the leads in the TV show Mindhunter, and the first person to coin the term “serial killer”. 

Flying to South Africa for a week-long consultation in September, he gave his seal of approval to Pistorius’ work, agreeing that the cases in all three communities were related. Together, the two also predicted that the killer would eventually contact the media, based on his previous attempt to communicate with the police through his grisly graffiti.

He also upheld the suspicion that the killer may have not been working alone, and may have even been a direct accomplice of David Selepe. Again, Selepe was not available for questioning on this matter, on account of being shot in the head by a trigger happy copper.

Still though, the crimes which were pinned on him before his death would eventually establish a definitive link to the man the police were still hunting…

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C is for and Capture

After exhuming all of the bodies from the grave near the Van Dyk Mine in Boksburg, the police set about discovering the identities of each of them. Some would remain forever unknown, but most could be traced to missing person cases from the past few months.

One was 45-year-old Amelia Rapodile, who disappeared on the 7th of September. A while after her husband received the devastating news, he began sorting through his deceased wife’s belongings. Among them, Mr Rapodile found an envelope with the words “Child Protection Community Organization” written on the front.

On the back was an address in Pretoria — apparently the headquarters of the charity — and a date and time written underneath: the exact day of Amelia’s disappearance. He peeled open the envelope to find a job application, suggesting that Amelia had landed a position with the company — an offer which, of course, never existed. 

The police knew these job offers were a recurring feature of a con already used to draw dozens of women to their death. Back in July, taxi driver Jimmy Lepule reported that his wife Mildred had an interview scheduled with a ‘Dr Williams’ on the day she disappeared. She left the door that day, ecstatic about the prospect of landing a desk job at the doctor’s charity. Jimmy would next see his wife three weeks later, when he was called to identify her body at the morgue.

It seemed that now the police finally had an address for the mysterious employer, but when they looked into the charity Amelia was applying for, they found it wasn’t registered. However, some further digging into the fake organization turned up a few potential suspects, one of whom looked very likely indeed…

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A Mysterious Phone Call

The trail was heating up nicely, and things really got going with a sensational development on the 3rd of October 1995. On that day, one of the most particular prophecies of the psych profilers came true: the ABC killer contacted the press. 

Just hours after the latest body had been found — that of 20-year old Agnes Mbuli — the office of Capetown-based newspaper The Star received a phone call. Journalist Tamsen de Beer answered the phone, and the caller identified himself as Joseph Magwena, “the man who is so highly wanted”.

During the interview which followed, Mr Magwena told of how he was once falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and the killings were his way of getting revenge for the torment he endured behind bars. He said: “l force a woman to go where I want, and when I go there I tell them, ‘Do you know what? I was hurt, so I’m doing it now.’ Then I kill them.”

When quizzed on how many victims he had murdered in this way, he reportedly put the number at 76, meaning there were plenty of bodies still to be found. Before hanging up, he provided directions to one of them, as-yet undiscovered by the police. These turned out to be completely accurate.

Although Magwena boasted of a huge number of victims, there was one crime he adamantly denied. This was the case of two-year-old Sibusiso, and his mother Letta. The murderer said he loved children, and would never do anything to harm one.

When De Beer asked if there was a number where he could reach the killer in future, and Magwena gladly gave him one. It was registered to a payphone in Pretoria, but by the time the police rushed down there, the murderer was long gone…

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It was a devastating near miss, especially since the cops were pretty certain they had already cracked the real identity of mystery man Magwena. In the days leading up to that call, investigators had continued to gather details about the charity organization used to lure in the victims with the promise of work. They began looking through phone records for any recurring numbers, and eventually found one which had been contacted by several of the victims. 

They asked the phone company who the number was registered to, and got the name of a woman in Pretoria. When quizzed about the so-called Child Protection Community Organization, she pointed the cops in the direction of her brother, Moses Sithole: a community campaigner for a similar organization, and day laborer, who was known for returning runaway children to their parents. Sounds like a lovely bloke.

But, just a quick glance into Sithole’s past revealed that he was in fact quite a likely candidate for South Africa’s most wanted. For one, he had a direct connection to the second victim in the Cleveland killings, Amanda Thete. She and Sithole had actually been romantically involved when she was killed — an affair, while his new wife sat at home pregnant with their first child.

Moses Sithole ABC Murder
Sithole. Source: murderpedia.org

If you cast your mind back, you’ll remember that it was Thete’s credit card that led the authorities to the very first break in the case, the arrest and untimely death of David Selepe, which seems like a pretty convincing connection between the two suspects.

On top of that, 31-year-old Sithole was already a convicted rapist, having spent six years in prison for an assault back in 1989. You’ll notice that his biography matched up perfectly to the details given by the mysterious caller who confessed his crimes to the newspaper.

The stars were aligning for the detectives, who were certain they’d finally got their man. There was just one problem though — Sithole was nowhere to be found. His wife had kicked him out back in December 1994, and he had been sleeping on the streets ever since. 

With no idea where they might find him, the police decided to release an image of their prime suspect to the press. In early October, his face was plastered over the front pages, along with a warning from police commissioner George Fivaz, discouraging mob justice, should the suspect be caught by any would-be vigilantes. 

Anyone who spotted Sithole should follow the standard, legal procedure: hand him over to the police, to be shot in the head away from prying eyes.

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Don’t Bring a Hatchet to a Gun Fight

Unfortunately, Moses Siithole managed to avoid being spotted long enough to claim another three victims in the areas around Boksburg, the very next week after his face was revealed: Agnes Mbuli, Beauty Ndabeni, and an unidentified Jane Doe.

Even though he could still kill freely, Sithole must have really felt the pressure piling on. After all, the aforementioned risk of mob justice was no joke; South Africa is the home of a particularly brutal kind of lynching called ‘necklacing’. It consists of filling a rubber tire with petrol, forcing it over a victim’s arms and chest, then lighting it on fire!

That doesn’t sound particularly appealing. So perhaps to protect himself from such a fate, Sithole contacted his brother-in-law in mid October, and asked him if he could get a hold of a gun. He agreed, and arranged a meeting at the factory he worked at in Benoni (just north of Boksburg). 

But the brother-in-law had already disowned the ABC killer by this point, much like everyone else who knew him. He went to the police, and helped them organize an operation to snare Sithole when he arrived to pick up the weapon.

Inspector Francis Mulovhedzi was sent to the factory undercover, posing as a new security guard, without the knowledge of any of the regular employees. On October 18th, Sithole arrived at the arranged time, and was invited inside to wait by the undercover cop, on account of the rain.

Sithole refused — he sensed something wasn’t quite right. When Inspector Mulovhedzi stepped inside, saying he was going to fetch the brother-in-law, the ABC Killer made a break for it. The detective pursued him, firing two warning shots in the air as he ran. 

Eventually he cornered Sithole in an alleyway, at which point the killer charged him with an axe (not sure where he got that from). Mulovhedzi shot him in the right leg, but Sithole kept coming — he tumbled into the officer and a struggle ensued. 

Sithole managed to bite the detective’s thumb, before Mulovhedzi fired two close-range shots right through his stomach, ending the fight. It took two days in intensive care before the ABC Killer was fit to be transferred to a military hospital, where he made a full recovery.

Bet you weren’t expecting that.

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So far, much of the prophetic work of the profilers had turned out to be correct. Moses was a ladies man in his early thirties, separated from his wife, with a real hatred for the female sex, and he had decided to contact the media. And the bullseyes didn’t stop there. 

One (admittedly uncorroborated)  source reports that he refused to talk until a female officer was brought in, then gave a statement confessing to over ten murders. He even described a few in detail, which is when the officer noticed that he had started playing with himself. Just as predicted, Moses Sithole was in fact, a total wanker.

Here’s a bit of what that unfortunate female detective found out about him (minus the masturbation breaks… hopefully).

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The Man

A Miserable Biography

Moses Sithole, ABC Murder.
Moses Sithole. Source: www.biography.com

Moses Sithole’s story began in Vosloorus, Boksburg in 1964. He was born into poverty during the apartheid era, and the family fell on even harder times when Moses’ father passed away. His mother decided that she didn’t fancy caring for five kids by herself, so she just dumped them at a police station, with instructions to never tell anyone who their mother was.

Moses was just five years old at the time, and spent three years in orphanages before eventually running away to escape the systemic abuse of the staff. His mother rejected him once again, sending him back to the orphanage. The next time he made a break for it, he went to live with his older brother Patrick. 

When he was old enough to work, Moses got a job in one of the Boksburg gold mines, along with several other odd jobs throughout the years. It was in his twenties that he started acting as an unofficial youth counsellor. He would find young runaways on the street, and return them to their parents — perhaps by explaining to them how lucky they were to have parents that actually wanted them in the first place.

The trauma of his own abandonment likely affected Moses deeply, and he didn’t handle it particularly well…

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His First Conviction

Moses was well known as a bit of a ladies man. His friends and family knew him to be sexually active from a young age, with a long line of girlfriends. However, what they weren’t aware of was the violence he enacted on the women he spent his nights with.

His first suspected rape happened in September 1987 — the victim, a Johannesburg woman who would eventually testify against him in court (although not for that exact crime). In 1988, he began abusing his 17-year-old girlfriend Sibongile Nkosi, and even raped her 15-year-old sister later that year. The younger Nkosi sister reported being strangled to the point of unconsciousness during the act.

Sithole carried out another assault on a Cleveland woman that year, and in February 1989 did the same to Buyiswa Doris Swakamisa. He threatened his victim with a broad South African machete called a panga, saying he would kill her if she ever reported the crime.

A few months later, Miss Swakamisa started a new job, and saw her attacked standing outside her workplace. She called the police, who swiftly came down and arrested him. The police decided it’d be a good idea to have the rapist and his victim share the back seat of the police car on the way down to the station.

It was a pretty horrific move, made worse by the fact that Moses did not exercise his right to remain silent. He spent the ride shouting at Swakamisa, saying that he should have killed her when he had the chance. He quickly changed his tune during the trial, maintaining his innocence, but the damage was already done. 

Unsurprisingly, Moses was convicted of rape, and sentenced to six years.

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Sithole in Love

It was while in prison that Moses met a woman named Martha Ndlovu, who had come to visit her nephew — a fellow inmate. She later recounted during his murder trial:

“He began to write me letters. Initially I didn’t respond, but after a while I agreed [to a relationship]. So I started to visit him regularly until he was released on parole in November [1993].”

Far be it from me to question Martha’s choice of romantic partners, but I suppose it just goes to show how convincing this convicted rapist could be. Manipulating women was all part of the power fantasy for Moses; just as the profilers suspected, his motivation was all about exerting twisted, violent control.

In prison, however, he had all that power stripped away from him. He later claimed that he was abused and beaten by his cellmates, and it’s thought he may have become a victim of sexual assault himself. This was likely what he was referring to when he said during the phone call “I was hurt, so I’m doing it now”.

As Martha mentioned, Sithole was released in 1993 on good behavior. The couple moved in together to a house in Pretoria. She soon fell pregnant with their daughter, Bridgette, and the couple got married soon after.

Around this time Sithole decided to found a charity organization: Youth Against Human Abuse, as a vehicle for his vigilante social work. With the help of a typist at his car washing job, he drafted up official-looking forms for reporting abuse against women and children, then handed them out around schools and community centers. 

He also organized meetings at a local school, offered help to organizations combating domestic violence, and continued helping the strays and runaways of the townships find their way back home. On the face of things, he was the perfect community leader — a family man who campaigned for the rights of the mistreated. 

But as we know, during that same time, he himself was becoming one of the worst offenders these very same communities had ever known…

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His Spree: ‘A Very Good Lesson’

Similar membership forms and letterheads were used by Moses to win the trust of his victims. He presented himself as a successful businessman and charity advocate, offering rewarding work to women in areas plagued by unemployment. Using one of his six known aliases, he would approach them on the street and introduce himself.

His easy charm and silver tongue made selling the lie easy. Ultimately, he would invite the women to come to his charity HQ for an interview. Either that same day, or after a bit more convincing via phone calls and written correspondence, Moses would lead his victims towards a ‘shortcut’ to the charity building. This of course meant cutting across a barren, remote piece of waste ground. Once out of sight of any witnesses, he would strike. 

To hear him tell it, the violent spree began when his first victim casually asked him for directions. He saw in her a surrogate for the young woman who had sent him to prison all those years ago, and took his chance to enact his revenge against womankind at large. His own wife was five months pregnant with their daughter at the time. Moses later said on camera: “I killed her and left her there. I went straight home and had a shower.”

Over the following year, he would do the same to many more women. Some were found with their hands bound behind their backs, some with blindfolds tied around their heads. Others had clothing draped over their faces after death, as if the killer couldn’t stand looking into the eyes of the humans he had just murdered.

Despite his propensity for violence, it was a just silly little argument which eventually caused Moses’ marriage to fall apart in spring 1995. He had taken a set of keys to work, belonging to an elementary school where he held many of his charity meetings. 

The school asked Martha to return them, and when Moses returned home the couple had an argument, which resulted in their breakup. Sithole continued his spree while sleeping rough in train stations around Pretoria and Joburg. This was when the bodies started appearing at an alarming rate in Atteridgeville, most of them near the railways. 

While awaiting trial for the murders at Boksburg Prison, Sithole agreed to film a jailhouse confession tape, made by a fellow inmate. He was promised a share of the royalties, to be delivered to his daughter. In the tape, he nonchalantly smokes a cigarette while describing the horror he put his victims through. He claimed he believed he was teaching them “a very good lesson”.

This ‘lesson’ began with taunting his victims, telling them exactly what he planned on doing to them. He would then challenge them to escape or die. His methods became increasingly sophisticated as time went on, tying the women’s hands to their necks, so that they would suffocate themselves if they struggled. 

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As for how many lives Moses Sithole claimed in this sadistic way, that’s still well up for debate. By the time his case went to trial, he had been charged with a total of 38. However, in the tape, he claims that only 29 of them were his (from July 1995 onwards), and the rest were tacked on unfairly by the police. Compare that with the 72 victims claimed in his pseudonymous interview with The Star, and it’s tough to put a fine point on the tally.

Whatever the case, the very last victim of the ABC killer was found several weeks after his capture, on November 6th. A local of Germiston found the body of an unidentified woman while walking in a field. After that, the killings ceased — it seemed like the police had finally got the right guy.

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Trial 

It would be almost another entire year before Moses was set to stand trial for his crimes. During that time he was moved to Pretoria Central Prison, where doctors confirmed that he was HIV positive. This unfortunately meant the same for his blameless wife and child. Just another reason to love South Africa’s public enemy number one.

Apparently the guards and inmates at Pretoria Central weren’t big fans of him either; his trial was scheduled to begin on November 14th 1996, but on that day the accused rocked up to court in blood-soaked trousers from a knee injury. According to the guards, he had suffered a ‘bad fall’ that morning, although reckon someone decided to teach Moses a ‘very good lesson’ of his own. 

Once he was back up on his feet, the trial was rescheduled for the following February. Moses Sithole was facing 38 charges of murder, along with 40 for rape, and six counts of robbery. The prosecution had collected together an impressive 350 witnesses — from his earliest rape victims, to the families of the deceased — with the aim of putting South Africa’s worst ever serial killer behind bars for life.

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Evidence

It seemed like a pretty clear-cut case. For one, there was the aforementioned confession recorded in prison the year before, which Moses now outright denied. On top of that, an America voice expert testified that the individual who had called the newspaper to confess was almost definitely him.

The man himself was calm and collected throughout the whole affair, even as the victims’ families shouted abuse from the stands. He even showed little emotion when his own wife took to the dock. She rejected his request to hold his infant daughter while she gave testimony, telling the court how she no longer loved her husband after discovering who he really was. 

More importantly, she also confirmed that several articles of evidence belonged to Sithole. These pieces of jewelry had previously been identified by family members of some victims, proving that the killer had stolen them from the bodies as souvenirs. 

Several months into the proceedings, Sithole once again had to be rushed out of court, this time for vomiting blood. A stomach ulcer was to blame — potentially something to do with being shot in the gut the year before. 

The defense team’s version of that particular story exemplified their strategy: they wanted to paint Sithole as a mistreated victim, railroaded into confessions by a manipulative police force. When recounting the shooting, they argued that Sithole hadn’t been drawn in by a sting operation, nor had he attacked the officer with an axe.

In fact, he had just been casually walking down the street, when he accidentally bumped shoulders with Inspector Mulovhedzi. Then, without a word, the cop just started blasting for basically no reason at all.

Don’t be ridiculous— this is South Africa, not America. (Only joking, please don’t shoot me.)

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Verdict

Sithole’s massive victim complex failed to win the sympathy of the judge and jury. On December 5th 1997, after an exhausting trial, Sithole was convicted on all counts. During the three hour verdict reading, he sat emotionless, scribbling down notes on a pad. At the end of the proceedings, he gathered up his documents, and left the courthouse with a smile on his face.

The next day, he returned to court for sentencing. Justice David Carstairs told Sithole that, had South Africa not abolished the death penalty in 1995, he wouldn’t have hesitated in doling it out here. Since that wasn’t possible, he instead slapped him with the maximum sentence possible for each and every one of the crimes, to be served consecutively

This meant a gargantuan grand total of 2,410 years behind bars. It might sound like a lot, but the silver lining for Sithole is that he’ll be eligible for parole after a measly 930 years. 

When the sentence was announced, the spectators in the gallery cheered. Some still weren’t satisfied, crying out for a return of the death penalty (a sentiment echoed in some of the tabloids soon after). Regardless, for most it signalled a satisfying end to one of the darkest chapters in South African criminal history.

The country’s worst-ever serial killer is now whittling away his days in C-Max: the maximum security block of Pretoria Central, where he’ll remain for the rest of his life.

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Aftermath

That about wraps up the story of Moses Sithole, the ABC killer, but one key question remains: was he actually the only one? We mentioned already how another rapist and murderer, David Selepe, was found in the possession of Sithole’s murdered mistress’ credit card, so is it possible that they really were working together?

Well, their methods were strikingly similar. Selepe also posed as a wealthy, successful businessman in order to lure in his victims. After Sithole was captured, Selepe was posthumously exonerated of 4 out of 6 of his murder charges, which were then transferred over to the ABC Killer. 

But Sithole flat out denied these crimes, even during his candid confession tape, so perhaps these really were the work of Selepe. There remains the possibility that he either coached Sithole on the methodology, or simply inspired him (without the two ever actually meeting). Alternatively, it might have been mere coincidence that Selepe came into possession of the card: perhaps Sithole looted it from the body, then sold it off to some bloke down the pub.

There’s one further complication too: some speculate that a third killer may have been responsible for some of the crimes — either second accomplice or copycat. This was a theory pursued by the police for some time, but to this day no further arrests have been made. Anyone keeping tally throughout will have noticed there were actually quite a few bodies left unaccounted for even after both men were captured and charged.

On the other hand, some reports claim that Sithole previously alluded to a total of 72 victims while boasting in prison. It could be that he was much more prolific than anyone ever knew, and he really was responsible for all of the crimes and more. 

If you want to be really pedantic, then we should maybe be adding a further two victims to his rap sheet as well. Although we can’t say for certain, it’s not a stretch to assume that Sithole’s crimes may well have been the cause of him contracting HIV, and subsequently passing the virus to his wife. 

Tragically, both Martha and Bridgette passed away from HIV-related complications, as hey never had any access to public healthcare for their condition. Sithole, on the other hand, was entitled to medical treatment in prison that far surpassed that available to many poor South Africans. 

It’s likely that he’ll actually live far longer in prison than he would have on the outside (although probably not long enough to see his release in 2927). That little touch of irony probably still keeps that capital-punishment-loving judge awake at night…

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Wrap-up

And that concludes our deep dive into one of the very worst that South Africa has to offer. Hiding behind his disguise as a pillar of the community, Moses Sithole was able to terrorize the women of the townships in a sick, deluded campaign of revenge.

His crimes weren’t a targeted attack against one person, nor an indiscriminate rampage. Rather, Sithole’s murderous spree was specifically intended to terrorize women as a whole. It didn’t matter to him that his victims were daughters, wives, and mothers — just like his own wife and child sitting at home. Unfortunately, these kinds of people are much more common than we’d like to think— not just in South Africa, but around the world. 

Just last month we saw America’s Robert Aaron Long go on a killing spree, targeting female massage spa workers as revenge for his own ‘sexual temptations’. Different country, different story, same misogynistic hatred. It’s pretty terrifying when you realize just how prevalent that kind of psychology really is — just take a look around online.

Or, if you’ve had enough human violence and misery for today, just go have a nice cup of tea, browse some pictures of baby animals, and we’ll have another dose ready when you are.

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Dismembered Appendices

1. The name of top profiler Micki Pistorius might have rung a few bells. That’s because she is in fact the auntie of another famous South African murderer, the sprinter Oscar Pistorius. Micki claims to have a kind of extrasensory perception for detecting killers, but no word on whether she predicted the fate of her little nephew. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

2. A quick word on today’s minor B-list murderer, David Selepe. After identifying him as the likely candidate in the Cleveland murders, the police launched a manhunt, and he eventually turned up in neighboring Mozambique. Selepe was found in his Mercedes Benz with newspaper clippings of the crimes in the glove box. Before meeting his untimely end, he confessed to 15 total killings (4 more than originally suspected). Were today’s killers solo psychopaths, or part of an organized murder posse? We’ll leave you to decide.

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