South Africa is a beautiful country with incredible beaches, the big five, great entertainment hot spots, and exciting sports events. Unfortunately, the crime rate here is one of the highest in the world. We have a frightening daily scourge of hijackings, rape, armed robberies, ATM bombings, domestic violence, and murder.
Serial murders are not new to South Africa. In fact, the country has the second-highest number of serial killers in the world. In this list we’ll have a look at 10 of the most evil serial killers that have operated here over the last century.
Known as South Africa’s first serial killer, Pierre Basson started acting out his violent fantasies on animals when he was just a young boy. At the age of 12, he needed something more to satisfy his sadistic nature, so he viciously attacked another boy with a knife. After that incident, Pierre appeared to calm down for a few years. However, shortly after his father’s death, 18-year-old Basson took out a life insurance policy on his little brother Jasper. He then invited Jasper to go fishing with him on February 3, 1903. Pierre Basson returned alone.
He approached other fishermen on their way to the beach and told them that his brother had been swept off the rocks by a huge wave and that he wasn’t able to save him from drowning. Despite a long search by the community, Jasper Basson’s body was never found. Having failed to secure a successful claim from his brother’s insurance policy, Pierre started cooking up other insurance schemes and murdering people in the process. (During this time, he eventually took the insurance company to court and managed to get his brother’s life policy paid out.)
The schemes involved offering loans to people on the condition that they take out a life insurance policy with Basson as the beneficiary to ensure that he would get his money back even if something should happen to them. Back then, this was a well-known and commonly used practice among lenders. It is believed that Pierre Basson killed eight or nine people, after getting them to concede their life policies to him. Some were throttled, others drowned (just like Jasper). Basson committed suicide in 1906, when the police started getting red-hot leads and were on the verge of catching him. He was posthumously convicted of his crimes.
Studies show that serial killers actively target a certain type of victim. What makes Stewart Wilken a chillingly interesting case is that he chose two types of victims: female prostitutes and young boys.
From 1990 to 1997, eight murders had the seaside city of Port Elizabeth on edge. The community (and the police) didn’t connect the dots until a 12-year-old boy by the name of Henry Bakers disappeared on January 22, 1997. Henry left his grandmother’s house in Missionvale and walked the short distance to his own home in Algoa Park. Or at least that was what his grandmother thought.
Ellen Bakers, the boy’s mother, became worried the next day and eventually set off to her mother’s house. She then realized her son left for home two days earlier and had not been seen since. She immediately reported him missing. A friend of Henry’s was questioned. The friend confirmed that he saw Henry with a man called Stewart Wilken, not far from Henry’s Algoa park home, on the day he disappeared. The Bakers family was familiar with Wilken and he had even stayed at their house for a while.
Police arrested Wilken on January 28 but let him go after Wilken provided them with a believable alibi. Wilken was arrested again three days later, after his alibi turned out to be false. During questioning, the police told Wilken they had been informed that his own daughter also disappeared in 1995. They said they were absolutely sure that he killed his own daughter and Henry Bakers. It did not take long for Wilken to confess to both murders. He told the police that he had returned to Bakers’s decomposing body that same morning, so that he could have sex with it. Wilken mockingly stared at the officers and said “I’m sick.” He later also admitted that he had sodomized the boy while he was dying.
Wilken’s full confession revealed disturbing details of his crimes. He told the police that he “inspected” his daughter’s vagina and found that she had been “defiled.” He told her he wanted to save her from “this life” and then strangled her. He kept her body (and later her skeleton) hidden behind the Garden Court Holiday Inn hotel for six months. The skeleton was found in 1996, but the police could only now attach an identity to it. Wilken confessed to murdering at least 10 victims, including his daughter and Henry Bakers. Wilken was sentenced to seven life terms behind bars. He is deemed a killer that cannot be rehabilitated, considering that he had shown no remorse, did not look away as very disturbing pictures of the victims were displayed in court, and even masturbated in the court bathroom during his trial.
It is truly sad that this man shares his last name with the nickname Nelson Mandela is fondly remembered by.
Petrus Madiba not only murdered eight women and a baby, he also put the blame for his horrific crimes on them. For each murder he had a different story. First, he claimed that six of the women were in a relationship with him at some point. He admitted to killing all eight women but said it was because they either stole from him or cheated on him. His reason for murdering the little baby girl, named Phologo Mokwena (and her mother), was that he allegedly found out the child was not his as the mother claimed. However, the family of the woman confirmed this to be a lie, saying she met him the same day he killed her.
Tragically, Madiba committed these murders while on bail for yet another murder. In October 2013, he was sentenced to a lifetime in prison.
7Gert van Rooyen
Just about everyone in South Africa knows about the serial killer and pedophile Gert van Rooyen. Mothers still relate the horrific story to their daughters when teaching them to stay away from strangers.
Van Rooyen’s violent crime spree began in 1979, when he kidnapped two young girls. He forced them to take their clothes off and perform various sexual acts on him. He let them go the next day. Gert van Rooyen was almost immediately arrested, tried, and convicted, then sent to prison for four years. He was released after three.
Time in jail did little to rehabilitate van Rooyen. He started dating Joey Haarhof in 1988, and she helped him lure his next victims to their home. Joey even contacted several children’s homes and told staff she wanted to “look after” young girls for holiday periods and weekends. Between 1988 and 1990, Gert van Rooyen and Joey Haarhof managed to get five young girls into their home. The girls were never seen or heard from again.
In 1990, Haarhof decided to abduct Joan Booysen, who was 16 at the time. Luckily, Joan managed to escape, even after being drugged and sexually assaulted. After Booysen alerted the police, they placed the house of van Rooyen and Haarhof under surveillance. When Gert van Rooyen became aware of this, he saw no way out other than shooting his lover and then himself. To this day, none of his victims have been found, despite ongoing searches.
6Louis van Schoor
Louis van Schoor took the term “trigger happy” to a whole new level. Starting his career out as a police officer and ending up as a security guard, van Schoor was convicted of seven murders in 1992. Before his conviction, it was thought that he killed as many as 39 people. He even admitted to shooting 100 people after setting traps for them in the form of silent alarms. He was known as an apartheid killer, since he only murdered black victims.
Alarmingly, van Schoor’s daughter apparently inherited her father’s murderous genes. Sabrina van Schoor hired a hitman to murder her own mother in 2002. She was caught, convicted, and handed a life sentence. Contrary to her father, Sabrina believed her mother was a racist and deserved to die.
Louis van Schoor and his daughter ended up in the same prison. Curiously, Louis only served 12 years of his 20-year prison sentence. He was released on parole in 2004, leaving his daughter behind to serve the rest of her life term. Van Schoor walked out of prison smiling, ready to marry his fifth wife and “go farming.”
David Randitsheni was a serial rapist and killer convicted of 10 murders and 17 rapes in 2009. Most of his crimes involved children. He raped and murdered his victims between 2004 and 2008, in the area of Limpopo.
Details of his crimes were not made available, out of respect for the children’s families. Randitsheni received 16 life sentences plus 220 years for murders, rapes, and abductions. The judge presiding over the case ruled that Randitsheni would not be eligible for parole until 35 years had been served. David Randitsheni was found hanging in his prison cell shortly after starting his sentence.
4Christopher Mhlengwa Zikode
Christopher Mhlengwa Zikode murdered eight people in the KwaZulu-Natal province, before justice finally caught up to him. Zikode had no problem forcing his way into a family home and killing all the men inside before raping the women. He also had no problem shooting the women who protested vehemently against being raped, then having sex with their corpses. Raping children was on his agenda as well.
The truly sad thing about this horrible case is that Zikode had been arrested on an attempted murder charge in 1995 and was then released on bail. During this time, he added another victim to his body count. He was convicted of his crimes in September 1997 and received five life sentences.
Known as the “Monster of Tholeni,” Bulelani Mabhayi stalked his victims in a rural area of the Eastern Cape. He raped and mutilated a total of 20 women and children before beating or hacking them to death. Different to Zikode, Mabhayi made sure that he targeted women who had no male partners to protect or help them.
Tholeni is an isolated village between two major cities in the Eastern Cape province. This made tracking Mabhayi down a difficult task. Forced to extreme measures, the police took fingerprints and DNA samples from hundreds of males in Tholeni. However, Mabhayi did not have an identity document and his fingerprints couldn’t be matched to anything.
By that time, the “Monster” had already murdered 15 victims. He simply carried on and killed five more people before he made a mistake. Leaving his shoe behind next to his last victim meant the end of his reign of terror. In 2012, Mabhayi was given 25 life terms without the possibility of parole.
Between 2008 and 2009, a spate of killings on the outskirts of Johannesburg had people locking their doors early in the evenings and making sure not to stay outdoors after dusk.
No one could’ve guessed that the murders would eventually be attributed to a man working as a preacher. Or at least, he pretended to be a preacher. Jack Mogale’s last crime was the brutal beating and repeated raping of a young teenage girl. After committing the despicable acts against the girl, Mogale left her for dead. Fortunately, the teenager regained consciousness the next day and was able to get help. Mogale was arrested shortly afterward. When police dragged him out of his shack, he protested violently and even tried to urinate on one of the officers.
During his trial, Jack Mogale sat smiling, grinning, and even laughed out loud. Found guilty of murder, abduction, and rape, Mogale was sentenced to 16 life sentences.
Moses Sithole is known as South Africa’s most evil serial killer. Sithole committed 38 murders and raped 40 women in 1995. His MO was raping, then tying up and strangling his victims with their own underwear. After the first four victims were found murdered in this way, the police declared that a serial killer was on the loose. A special task force was established to try and capture the killer. It was only after 34 more victims’ bodies were found that Sithole was finally brought to justice.
Chillingly, it became apparent after his capture that most of his victims were lured with the promise of employment. Considering the high unemployment rate in South Africa, this was a very cunning way to draw his trusting victims to a secluded place. Even worse is the fact that Moses Sithole is HIV positive. He volunteered this information during questioning. Sithole almost gleefully admitted to 29 murders, giving explicit details while doing so.
Moses Sithole would most certainly have received the death penalty for his crimes if it were still in force in South Africa. Instead, he ended up receiving 2,410 years behind bars after an extended trial that took more than a year to complete. He started serving his sentence in 1997.
I’m a wannabe fiction writer with a fascination for all things creepy and spooky.