The baby who would become Stewart Wilken was born on November 11, 1966, in Boksburg. When he was about 6 months old, he and his 2-year-old sister were left in a phone booth, where they were later found by a domestic worker, who took them to the home of her employer. This man, known only as "Doep," subjected the boy to terrible abuse. He burned the boy with cigarettes on his genitals. The boy's food was given to the dogs and he had to eat with the animals from their bowls. Doep also engaged in acts of bestiality with his dogs, and the boy had to lick his penis afterwards. At some point, the boy's sister disappeared and he did not know what happened to her.
This went on for a year and a half.
When the boy was 2 years old, the neighbours, Mr and Mrs Wilken, adopted him out of compassion. He was undernourished and infested with lice. (Mrs Wilken would later confirm the cruelty perpetrated against the boy by Doep.) The Wilkens gave the boy the name of Stewart Wilken, although he called himself "Boetie Boer." At some point, they moved to Port Elizabeth.
Stewart did not do well at school, neither academically, nor socially. He failed the third grade three times. He was mocked by his peers because he was adopted. According to Wilken, the teacher had not intervened on his behalf, but instead had incited the others further. The next day Stewart assaulted the teacher and was severely beaten by the principal in front of the other children.
He often bit his stepmother as well as other children. She punished him for these and other disobediences by locking him up in his room, where he kicked over lights and other furniture. According to Wilken, she had also locked him up in a cupboard. He was punished for wetting his bed. There was an incident where a boy attacked him and when he fought back, was sent home. Wilken recalls that his stepmother had not taken his side, and he had decided that from then on, he would be his own "mother, father, sister and auntie" (Pistorius, 2002, p. 156). At the age of 8, he started smoking marijuana.
When he was 9, a deacon invited Stewart to his home one day after Sunday school. There, the deacon sodomized the boy. During this same year, either before or after this incident, Stewart's stepfather died.
Stewart's stepmother felt overwhelmed by the difficult boy and sent him to a reformatory. Here he was locked up without clothes as punishment, and the older boys sodomized him. He often tried to run away, but had to return. After he completed Standard 9 (Grade 11), Stewart enlisted in the Army, but was discharged after four months, when he attempted to commit suicide. He moved in with his stepmother in Despatch, which is not far from Port Elizabeth.
Stewart met the woman who would become his first wife, Lynne, in a nightclub. On December 25, 1985, they had a daughter, whom they named Wuane. Lynne stated that after Wuane's birth, Wilken would only have anal sex with her, often in very uncomfortable positions. Wilken later alleged that Lynne turned to prostitution at this time.
The marriage was not a happy one. Wilken assaulted his wife on numerous occasions and she had him arrested for smoking marijuana. They got divorced, and Wilken vowed that he would never have sex with a white woman again, for fear that it might be his long-lost sister.
He met a coloured woman, Veronica, who already had two sons. (There are four main racial groups in South Africa: white, of European descent; black, which comprises numerous different indigenous tribes; coloured, which refers to people of mixed race; and Indian, descendants from India.) Wilken and Veronica married and had two daughters. This marriage also did not fare too well, and Veronica's parents accused Wilken of sodomising the two boys. It was at this time that he left the house and went to live in the bushes near Happy Valley.