Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Stewart Wilken

A Chance Discovery

Stewart Wilken presents an interesting case because he killed two distinct types of victims. Serial killers almost invariably target victims who share certain characteristics, which may be anything from their physical appearance to their vocation to something as mundane as wearing high heels. They do this because it provides them with an emotional release. Ted Bundy killed young, attractive women. Jeffrey Dahmer killed homosexual men. Andrei Chikatilo killed children of both sexes. Stewart Wilken killed adult female prostitutes and early adolescent boys. Like all serial killers, there was a deep psychological motive underlying his choice of victims.

Africa map, w South Africa highlighted
Africa map, w South Africa highlighted
 

Port Elizabeth is a large town on the east coast of South Africa, a country known for gold, apartheid and Nelson Mandela. It is also the country with the second highest number of serial killers, after the United States (Pistorius, 2000), although this is a lesser-known fact. By the beginning of 1997, at least eight people had already been killed by the same man over a seven-year period in Port Elizabeth, or PE, as it is generally referred to by South Africans. However, no one had connected all the cases.

Port Elizabeth, S Africa
Port Elizabeth, S Africa
 

But Stewart Wilken finally made a mistake.

On January 22, 1997, a 12-year-old boy named Henry Bakers disappeared. His mother, Ellen Bakers, was not concerned, as the boy frequently stayed over at his grandmother's house in nearby Missionvale, which is walking distance from their home in Algoa Park. However, when he did not arrive home by Thursday evening, she became uneasy. On Friday morning, she went to her mother's house, only to hear that Henry had left for home on Wednesday.

He had been missing for two days.

The Child Protection Unit was contacted and Sgt. Ursula Barnard began to investigate the case. She discovered Henry had been at his mother's house on Wednesday afternoon, after which he played with a friend at a nearby park. The friend told her that he had to go and buy milk for his parents and later saw Henry with a man called Stewart Wilken in Dyke Way. He asked Henry where he was going and the man said that it was none of his business. Wilken was known to both Henry and Ellen Bakers, and had even lived at her mother's for a while after he had had some marital problems.

Sgt. Barnard set out to find Stewart Wilken, which was problematic because he did not have a fixed address. She was informed by a colleague that Wilken's daughter, Wuane, had disappeared in 1995, and that there were also two charges of sodomy being investigated against him. Like Henry Bakers, Wuane was last seen in Wilken's company. The sodomy charges were filed by his parents-in-law in connection with the two sons of his second wife, Victoria.

Stewart Wilken
Stewart Wilken

Sgt. Barnard arrested Wilken on January 28, 1997, and questioned him. He appeared genuinely concerned about the missing boy and eager to help. He told Sgt. Barnard that he had indeed been with Henry for a while on that Wednesday, but he knew nothing about his disappearance. In fact, Wilken alleged that he had spent the night at a lady friend's house. He was released.

The alibi turned out to be false, and Wilken was rearrested on January 31, 1997. The Child Protection Unit approached Sgt. Derrick Norsworthy of the Murder and Robbery Unit. He had been trained by Dr. Micki Pistorius, South Africa's first psychological profiler, in the investigation of serial murder, which included advanced interviewing and interrogation techniques.

South African police logo
South African police logo

Sgt. Norsworthy had Wilken brought to his office, where the latter introduced himself as "Boetie Boer" ("Brother Farmer"), the name by which he was generally known. Sgt. Norsworthy sat Wilken down in a chair facing a photograph of the sergeant's daughter, who was almost the same age as Wuane had been. He left Wilken alone for a while. Upon his return, he found Wilken staring at the photograph. Sgt. Norsworthy drew Wilken's attention to the framed certificates on his wall, signifying that he had successfully completed training as an investigator of serial homicide. Wilken's eyes found the photograph once more. Sgt. Norsworthy told Wilken that he knew he had killed the two children. He also knew that Wilken had revisited the bodies to fantasize and commit necrophilia. Wilken was silent, then his eyes drew on slits and he stretched out his hands. "I am sick," he said. Then, he admitted that he had killed both his daughter, Wuane, and Henry Bakers. In fact, he had returned to the decomposing body of the boy that very morning to have sex with it.

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