Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Moses Sithole

The Graveyard Kept Growing

Although Capt. Frans van Niekerk of the East Rand Murder and Robbery Unit was the investigating officer at the scene in Boksburg, he had no qualms about contacting Capt. Viljoen, and they decided to join forces and share information.

This crime scene received an immense amount of attention. The media was present in full force, ensuring that the killer would seek out a new dump site. Commissioner George Fivaz, head of the South African Police, surveyed the area from a helicopter. Even President Nelson Mandela came out to the site and met all the detectives and other forensic experts at the scene.

There were two interesting aspects about the site itself. It was located more than three miles from Boksburg Prison, a proximity that seemed more than coincidence, although no one was sure what it meant. The other was the discovery of numerous items of ritualistic significance in the seemingly endless array of ant heaps scattered across the adjacent stretch of veld. These items included black and red candles, mirrors, feathers, knives, lingerie, et ceterabelieved to be related to traditional healing.

Sangomas with divination tablets
Sangomas with divination tablets

Traditional healers or sangomas are prevalent in South Africa. According to Ingo Lamprecht,   sangomas (male or female) play many different social and political roles in the community. They are involved in divination, healing, directing rituals, finding lost cattle, protecting warriors (Sangomas offered protective medicine [muti] to freedom fighters during South Africas political struggles), and smelling out witches, as well as narrating the history, cosmology, and myths of his/her tradition. Muti, in particular, is a problematic area, since it can be prepared using anything from roots to animal pieces to human body parts, especially the eyes, organs and genitals. Which ingredients are used probably depends on the conscience of the healer. There have been numerous accounts of muti murders, frequently involving babies or young children.

For example, on Dec. 13, 2004, a 43-year-old traditional healer appeared in the Wynberg magistrates court in Cape Town. He was accused of raping a 30-year-old woman, leaving her naked, stabbed and with her throat cut underneath a bed. She somehow survived, but her 9-month-old son did not. The suspect took police officers to a ditch where he had left the boys body. Apparently, the murder was committed after an influential sangoma told him that it would assist him in amassing great wealth.

Although the possibility that the women at the Van Dyk Mine may have been murdered by the same person or group responsible for the paraphernalia in the ant heapswhether for muti or other reasonswas investigated, Micki Pistorius saw the Atteridgeville killers signature on every victim. The typical railway line was nearby, as well. She was certain that he had walked where she was walking now.

In addition, there was an alarming discovery at this scene. With the four latest victims found at the Van Dyk Mine, the killer had combined his methods of binding and strangling. The most recent women had had their hands tied to their necks, so that they would essentially strangle themselves the more they struggled.

These are the women who were found at Boksburg:

Makoba Tryphina Mogotsi, 26 years old, went missing on Aug. 15.

Nelisiwe Nontobeko Zulu was also 26 years old. She was last seen on Sept. 4, on her way to search for a job.

Amelia Dikamakatso Rapodile, age 43, disappeared on Sept. 7, after she left her place of employment, Johannesburg International Airport, in the company of a man who had promised her a better job. She was found with her hands tied behind her back to her neck with her pantyhose. Her bank card had been used to withdraw money three times later on the night of her disappearance in Germiston.

Monica Gabisile Vilakazi left her grandmothers house on Sept. 12 to look for work, leaving her 4-year-old son in the older womans care. She was 31 years old.

Hazel Nozipho Madikizela, 21 years old, was found with her hands tied to her neck with underwear. She was last seen by her parents in Germiston.

Tsidi Malekoae Matela was identified more than a year later, in Nov. 1996. Originally from neighbouring Lesotho, she was 45 years old when she died.

The other four women only received numbers, allocated by the mortuary as they were entered into the Death Register. All we know about them is how they died.

Commissioner Fivaz told the press that there was no connection between this site and the Cleveland murders, because David Selepe had been killed. He admitted that it was possible that the killings may be linked to those in Atteridgeville, however. He also revealed that a reward of $82,000 would be available to anyone who had information that may lead to the arrest of the killer.

Dr. Robert K. Ressler
Dr. Robert K. Ressler

Because of the exponentially growing list of victims and the tremendous pace at which they were being killed, it was decided to contact some international experts. Micki Pistorius had attended a conference in Scotland in June, where she met Robert Ressler and Roy Hazelwood, both retired FBI profilers. She had actually consulted with Robert Ressler telephonically during an earlier case in 1994, but in Scotland they became properly acquainted. In fact, they had discussed the Cleveland and Atteridgeville murders. She contacted him now, and he immediately agreed to fly to South Africa.

The ex-FBI man arrived on Sept. 23. Two days later, while a prayer service was being organized for that evening at the Boksburg site, they began visiting crime scenes and studying dockets.

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