Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Selepe

Eight Dead Women

The first victim would only be identified nine days later, and she wasn't one of the three. The woman had already been killed and discovered in July.

While reports of a possible serial killer began to circulate in the media, the Brixton Murder and Robbery Unit took over the dockets and linked two more women, who had been discovered in the same area on July 16 and 31, to the series.

On September 19, the sixth body was found near a mine dump in Heriotdale. Her jersey had been pulled over her head and her dress pushed up above her hips. Detectives remained puzzled that none of the women had apparently been reported missing.

On September 21, 140 police officers, two dogs and a police helicopter searched the Heriotdale and surrounding area of Cleveland, where all six bodies had been found within a radius of a little more than 3 miles. They were rewarded with the discovery of two more bodies in advanced decomposition, as well as many pieces of female underwear. Their clothes had been pushed up under their arms and they appeared to have been strangled with either their belts or undergarments.

This discovery brought the total to eight dead women. All black. All well-dressed. All aged between 23-30.

But there was also a ray of light on this 21st day of a very dark month. The woman who had been found on July 31 was identified by her husband. She was Hermina Papenfus, aged 25, a nurse at the Sandringham Clinic. Police were busy preparing identikits of the other women to release through the media.

On September 23, the police continued their search of the Cleveland area. This time they found a bloody shirt, a pair of female sandals, and a rock with blood spatters on it. The shirt was discovered in bushes about 50 ft from a footpath meandering between the factories. Police believed that it belonged to the fifth or sixth body. They also expanded their search to determine whether more bodies had been dumped in a wider area. Fortunately, this time it wasn't necessary to summon the mortuary van.

Victim's shoes found near body
Victim's shoes found near body

At least, not until October 8.

In the meantime, however, the pathologist had found evidence that at least two of the victims had indeed been raped.

Johannesburg and Soweto map
Johannesburg and Soweto map

The woman found near the Jupiter station on September 3 was identified by her father on September 26. She was 23-year-old Ntombi Maria Makhasi. She lived in Orlando West, Soweto, and had been studying fashion design at the Elna Design School in Johannesburg. Her teacher described her as friendly and responsible. Apparently, she told her classmates that she would not attend school on September 2, because she was planning to visit her ill mother in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. On September 2, she disappeared. Her father told the detectives that Ntombi made use of taxis and buses for transport. The other identified victim, Hermina Papenfus, was also known to use taxis.

South Africa taxis
South Africa taxis

The taxi industry is huge in South Africa, because such a large portion of the population lives in poverty and cannot afford their own motorized transport. Consequently, taxis, which are modified minibuses with numerous rows of seats - and which can accommodate amazing numbers of human beings - are fervently employed. Over the years, there have also been frequent outbreaks of taxi violence among the different factions vying for control of various routes. In recent years, there was a bloody conflict between a taxi faction and the Golden Arrow bus drivers near Cape Town, resulting in a number of violent deaths (mostly on the part of the bus drivers) and people unable to go to work. Many of these taxis are also not entirely roadworthy, and their drivers do not always adhere to established traffic laws and regulations.


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