Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Tanya Flowerday: Snuff Victim?

The Nigerian Connection

Hillbrow, an area of Johannesburg
Hillbrow, an area of Johannesburg

The investigation took Insp. Steinhöbel into Hillbrow, an area of Johannesburg that once was cosmopolitan in a good sense but has since deteriorated into a cesspool, and into its belly of drugs and prostitution. It led to at least one arrest. Onyebachi Mbanefo, a 33-year-old Nigerian and known drug lord, was taken into custody on October 9, 2003, in Hillbrow. Although he was arrested on drug charges, the Flowerdays were notified of his arrest and a source revealed that he was being investigated in relation to Tanya's murder. The police refrained from any meaningful comment, but the suspect's computer hard drive and several video cassettes were confiscated and sealed in evidence containers.

The criminal element of Nigeria seems to have found fertile soil in the post-1994 free and open society of Africa's southernmost country. Drugs and — oftentimes forced — prostitution are the preferred methods of making money on the streets of South Africa's cities.

During October of 2004, police received information from a girl that her sister was being kept as a child prostitute in Durban in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Following her rescue, police learned that it was part of an organised Nigerian syndicate dealing in drugs and child prostitution. A special task force was formed, including members from the Durban and Johannesburg Child Protection Units. They investigated the syndicate for a month and then began a series of crackdowns.

During the second half of November, 28 child prostitutes were rescued and 67 Nigerians arrested in Durban and Johannesburg. Most of the Nigerians were illegal immigrants. Almost all of the girls were between 10 and 15 years old. Some were lured with money or drugs, some were runaways, some had been sold by their parents, and others were kidnapped.

The syndicate targets the poorer communities. Once they have a girl, she is immediately moved to another city, and the girls are also ferried between the cities of Johannesburg, Durban, Bloemfontein and Cape Town, depending on the demand for sex. Detectives were concerned that girls may even have been taken to Nigeria.

A 14-year-old girl freed in Durban related how she was systematically lured deeper and deeper into debt by a Nigerian drug dealer in Gauteng. When she owed him thousands of rands, he demanded payment. Since she couldn't repay him, she had to work for him. At some point he gave her to other Nigerians until, finally, she ended up in Durban. Here her life consisted of sex and drugs, as she told the Rapport of November 27, 2004: "Our wakeup call is three rocks [cocaine crystals], which we get each morning for free. Then we have to earn money to buy more rocks. You just want more and more and all the money you get is given for rocks."

Many of the girls are imprisoned in flats where they are controlled through drugs, usually heroin or cocaine. The Nigerians lock them inside a room and always keep the key in their pockets. Here they pimp the girls, easily making R2,000 ($328) a day with one girl, of which she only gets enough to buy the drugs she needs.

Following the revelation that a snuff movie might have been made of Tanya Flowerday, the 3rd Degree team conducted their own investigation into the Nigerian sex trade. They also spoke with a former drug addict who used to be involved in the Nigerian drug scene. He gave the following account:

"The Nigerian dealer will offer you money for the lady friend. They'll normally say, 'At some stage you came in with ... with a friend or a girlfriend'. They'll say, 'That girl you had here last week, I'll offer you a thousand rand cash and cocaine and heroin worth two-thousand rand if you just bring her around.' When you ask what they're gonna do with the lady, they'll say, 'No, we're just gonna chat to her and smoke with her upstairs. We're gonna give her free drugs.' On the one occasion I arrived in time and the lady was crying hysterically. I asked her what happened. She said to me she's just been raped by five guys. I said, 'How'd this happen?' She said, no, she went upstairs and ... they gave her some heroin, some cocaine, the next thing five guys came in, they kept her mouth closed and then raped her."

He also stated that such acts are recorded, using a laptop computer and a camera, often in hotel rooms. "So, yes, they film it." He also claimed to have taken such CDs to the airport or to other Nigerians.

In a world of forced child prostitution and filmed gang rape, is producing a snuff film really such a stretch? In the final analysis, there is only one way to know for certain, and that is to find the tape.

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