Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Selepe

Verbal Lynching

Still, the newspapers all but verbally lynched the police. The editor of Beeld wrote on December 20 that three detectives should have been able to subdue a man armed only with a branch. And if shots had to be fired, why not at the legs? The next day, Beeld covered some of the other newspapers' responses: The Star speculated about possible ulterior motives; The Citizen worried about the police's public image; and the Sowetan stated that "an innocent man may have paid for the crimes of a monster who is still alive."

The fact that the police failed to notify Selepe's estranged wife of his death, causing her to find out about it from neighbors who read about it in the papers, did not help. Neither did contradicting statements by one of the media officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Eugene Opperman, who first told reporters that Selepe had been handcuffed at the time of the attack, and later corrected his mistake. He was subsequently suspended in an effort to repair some of the police's damaged image.

Another statement by the police, in the December 20 issue of Beeld, said that Selepe had not admitted "in so many words" that he was the Cleveland strangler, but "said things which strengthened our suspicion," casting further doubt on a verbal confession that was increasingly being viewed as something which should be written in quotation marks.

Sydney Mufamadi
Sydney Mufamadi

Sydney Mufamadi, the Minister of Safety and Security at the time, did his best to try and salvage the deteriorating situation. He held a press conference, discussing some aspects of the investigation and stating that Selepe's death did not mean the case was now closed. He met with Dullah Omar, the Minister of Justice, as well as Advocate Klaus von Lieres und Wilkau, the Attorney-General of the Witwatersrand, to discuss the investigation into Selepe's death.

On December 22, Minister Mufamadi spent four hours with 30 relatives of eight of the Cleveland victims in the Manhattan Hotel in Pretoria, assuring them that both Selepe's death as well as the Cleveland murders will be investigated thoroughly.


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