Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

'I Don't Want to Die'

'I Still Want to Know Why'

This section should be read with an analytical perspective. It does not represent the truth, but my interpretation of the information at my disposal. In the wake of the massacre at Sizzlers, many people asked why, seeking some kind of explanation for events which seemed beyond comprehension. Joan Versfeld, Aubrey Otgaars mother, told the Cape Times after her sons killers had been sentenced, I still want to know why.

The Sizzlers massacre has been explained as a robbery gone awry, escalating out of control, according to the prosecutor. Robberies frequently go awry. People are shot. Sometimes they die. It is by definition a pressure situation.

This is not the same as stabbing men, who are securely bound and not attempting to interfere with a robbery, and cutting their throats. Potential clients knocking on the door were shown away, relatively calmly under the circumstances. Phone calls were coolly answered. This speaks of presence of mind. Despite Otgaars feeble retaliation and Berghaus fleeting attack on Woest, it does not appear as if the killers ever really lost control of the situation.

If the main motive was indeed robbery, if the killings only occurred as a direct result of the accidental shooting of Gregory Berghaus, as Woest claimed in his confession, why did they take the gasoline with them? Why did they not put on the balaclavas during the robbery? They could probably have forced their way past the locked security gate wearing masks. If not, they could at least have put them on once they were inside Studio 3, which would have exposed their faces to only one person, or at the most, two, and only for a relatively short period of time. Why wear surgical gloves to prevent depositing fingerprints, but show their faces to people who quite possibly have seen Woest in the neighborhood already, or were bound to in the future? They took firearms, a knife, washing line, duct tape, petrol, balaclavas and surgical gloves with them to the scene, which speaks of pretty thorough planning. They made an appointment in advance to ensure entry into the house. But didnt mind protecting their identities from the victims? Which means what? That it wasnt necessary?

Adam Woest and Trevor Theys should be classified as mass murdererspeople who kill numerous people during a specific and continuous period of timebut neither conforms to the typical profile. Mass murderers, unless politically motivated, almost always act alone. In the Time-Life book Mass Murderers, the authors describe their subjects as loners, without any real friends, but with much frustration and feelings of being ignored. As whatever grievances they havewhich may be related to real or imagined events or situationsreach a critical point, they decide to act.

Both serial killers and mass murderers are psychologically motivated to kill. In both, fantasy plays an important role. But whereas the serial killer "paces himself and kills on multiple occasionswhich amount to disparate emotional eventsthe mass murderer kills numerous people on one occasionduring a single emotional event. Mass murderers are also likely to commit suicideeither by their own hand or that of a police officerafter the murders.

John Douglas, in The Anatomy of Motive, co-authored by Mark Olshaker, identifies two main types of mass murderer. The first is called the mission-oriented murderer, who wants to make a public statement. This is the Charles Whitman or James Huberty type, who ascends a tower or walks into a restaurant and starts shooting people at random. Then there is the second type, who frequently kills his family and then himself, and who commits his murders in private.

Richard Speck
Richard Speck
Adam Woest appears to be an exponent of this second type. And he reminds me of Richard Speck. Speck apparently entered the house where eight nurses and nursing students lived on July 12, 1966, to steal money. He held the six women present at gunpoint, demanding money, which they readily gave him. He told them that he wouldnt kill them. Then he bound their wrists and ankles. While he was doing this, another woman, Gloria Davy, arrived home, bearing quite a resemblance to Specks ex-wife, whom he had told numerous people he wanted to kill. He tied her up, too, and sat among them, smoking. Then he began taking them from the room, one by one, and killing them, including another student and her friend arriving later, but somehow forgetting about one of the other women. Of the eight women killed, most of them quite savagely and bloody, Gloria Davy was the only one raped, and brutally so. She was the trigger.

It is my theory that something similar happened inside Sizzlers on January 20, 2003. We know that Adam Woest had been beaten by his father. A young child is helpless at the hands of a big, strong man, particularly if this man is your father. We know that Woest was derided and bullied at school. He did not fight back, but withdrew into a private world. This is the choice of someone who feels helpless, powerless. Spending much time alone means spending much time with only your own thoughts. Thoughts, which in the minds of those who feel powerless, more often than not, turn to fantasies of being the opposite of what they are: powerful. And what is more powerful than violently overpowering and dominating those who bully and dominate you?

It is my theory that something happened inside Adam Woest when he saw all those men tied up and frightened and at his mercy. His fantasies suddenly became reality. He now was the powerful one, the one in control. The one who decides who lives or dies. It must have been a tremendous feeling after all those years. It was just a coincidence that these men were gay masseurs. It had nothing to do with homophobia. Woest saw himself cowering on the floor and finally had the means to retaliate against his helplessness. This is why his remorse does not appear genuine. He does not care about the lives he took. On that night, he vanquished the part of him he hates.

Unlike Richard Speck, Woest did not have a criminal history prior to Sizzlers; in fact, according to reports, he had not been involved in deviant behavior at all. Also, Woests life was very stable by all appearances. He had a steady job which did not pay badly, a flat, a circle of friends, and a fiancée with whom hed had a steady relationship for seven years, which she characterized as happy. This is not the stuff you read in accounts of mass murderers, or serial killers for that matter.

I dont know why Adam Woest decided to be involved in the robbery. He does not appear to have had financial difficulty. In his confession, he stated: Not that I needed the money, but as an intended robbery. It was more to help Trevor out. I figured he has a lot of debt. Why would a man with so much to lose, risk his entire future to help a man almost twice his age and who seemed more like an acquaintance than a close friend?

Was Woest afraid of Theys, that harm might befall his fiancée? If so, why didnt he go to the police? Quinton Taylor, in no uncertain terms, described Woest as the dominant one: the voice who gave the orders, the one that led. Marlene Visser similarly painted a harsher picture of Woest than she did of Theys. They described Theys as more compassionate, softer, and acting with hesitancy.

Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris
Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris
 

Unlike the solitary mass murderers, there have been a number of serial killer collaborations. Clay Lawson and Russell Odom actually only managed to kill one person together, but undoubtedly more would have followed, had they managed to remain free. Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris had the inspired plan to kidnap, torture and kill a girl of each teen year, starting with 13. There was also Charles Ng and Leonard Lake. John Douglas writes in Journey into Darkness, that in these partnerships, there is always a dominant leader and a submissive follower. Lawson, Bittaker and Ng were the leaders, while Odom, Norris and Lake were the followers. In the case of the Sizzlers murderers, Woest was the dominant one, while Theys was the subservient one.

Journey into Darkness
Journey into Darkness
Theys claimed that he was initially motivated by the pain of his girlfriends infidelity. When Theys defense attorney questioned one of the psychiatrists about this, Dr Larissa Panieri-Peter dismissed it. Still, Theys maintained that half the time I didnt know what I was doing because my girlfriend hurt me. The other half, he was apparently fearing for his life at the hands of Woest. Theys may have been the submissive partner, he may even really have been afraid of Woest, but he didnt have to participate in the robbery. By his own admission, he had been stalling Woests requests for weapons, and on the night of the massacre, he was the one who called Woest to say they could "do it. Perhaps he was only thinking about robbery at the time. There still had to have been at least one opportunity to put a bullet in the back of Woests head once he told Theys to do things I did not want to do. From no point of view is Theys any less guilty than Woest.

Two other points should also be borne in mind. First, there is quite a difference between committing a crime alone or as part of a group, even if that group only consists of two members. It is widely known that individuals can go to much greater extents of depravity as members of a group.

Second, South Africa is a pretty violent country with a pretty violent past. Weve had violence perpetrated by past governments to quash anti-apartheid uprisings. Weve had violence perpetrated by the freedom fighters or terroristsdepending on who was doing the labelingin the name of the Struggle. And now, in the 10 years that have passed since we became a democracy, weve had violence perpetrated by individuals in the name of money, resentment, or sometimes nothing. The result is that we have become desensitized to violence, at least to some degree. And for many people in this country, the value of human life has diminished.

Was there someone else involved? Theys older brother Andrew said in an article on Independent On-Line on March 16, 2004, that theres something more in this thing. Thats not all the evidence. Why did the killers remain silent? Reading through Woests confession, it doesnt seem as if he had much interest in coming clean or in taking responsibility for his actions. He provided much less detail than Theys, and mostly used we, which immediately indicates diminished responsibility. Even in his letter to the court, he remained influenced by another person. Theys, on the other hand, seems like the type to talk easily. And he did, provided that the questions steered clear of the events at Sizzlers. The Cape Times of March 10, 2004, printed this excerpt from the psychiatric report: He indicated that he was afraid for the lives of his family should he divulge any details of the offences. He was clearly very afraid and upset when discussing this. Why would he fear for his family if only he and Woest had been involved? Woest, after all, was safely locked up.

The police also acted somewhat suspiciously. Quinton Taylor spent a total of thirteen months in the Witness Protection Programme, the vast majority of those after Woest and Theys were in prison. While Quinton was testifying, there was a guard with an automatic assault rifle behind him, along with numerous plainclothes detectives scattered throughout the rest of the court. As soon as he was done, he was immediately led away. If only Woest and Theys had been involved, why these immense security measures? Surely they would not be able to harm him inside the courtroom. And what happened to the other suspects described in the days following the murders?

Dr Mark Welman, the director of the MTN Centre for the Study of Crime Prevention, remains unconvinced that Woest and Theys were the only ones involved. Nor that their motive was robbery. I would suggest that, while the offenders have tried their best to make it look like robbery was the primary motive, this is doubtful, he said in the Cape Argus of March 17, 2004. It seems to me they came there intent on committing mayhem and murder from the outset, and wanted to leave a grisly crime scene behind.

Many questions remain. As is so often the case in real life crimes, we do not know the whole story.

Adam Woest ended his confession by saying, If it means anything, Im sorry for what happened.

Nine men are dead. Their loved ones have to live with this loss for the rest of their lives.

It means nothing.

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