Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Selepe

It Begins

Map of Africa with South Africa locator
Map of Africa with South Africa locator

It was September 12, 1994, a mere four and a half months since, for the first time in South Africa's history, all adult citizens were allowed to elect a ruling party. Apartheid was legally dead and a divided country was trying to heal the deep scars left by decades of injustice. Blacks still mistrusted police, a legacy from when a fearful minority used the force to instill fear and order in an oppressed majority. On this day, the police revealed that someone was preying on black women in Cleveland, an industrial suburb of the Place of Gold, Johannesburg. Three bodies had been found since the beginning of September. The circumstances surrounding each discovery were very similar.

Johannesburg, South Africa skyline
Johannesburg, South Africa skyline

In the ensuing months, the police would show that they had already begun to move away from a Force to a Service, although the official name change was still some months away. The detectives would be relentless in their effort to protect other black women.

The first body was found on September 3 in bushes near the Jupiter train station next to Heriotdale. On September 7, the second body was found next to the M2 freeway, on the other side of Heriotdale. Later that same day, the third body was found near a mine dump in the same area. None of the women had anything near them to aid in their identification, but their clothes indicated that they had been neatly dressed. When they were discovered, they were partly nude, and, from all appearances, had been raped and strangled.

The police had difficulty identifying the women, despite wide media coverage. Identifying the victims is of particular importance in a serial murder investigation because details of the person's last-known activities may reveal where victim and killer met, and careful study may unveil a pattern among the victims. Serial killers, after all, are known to target a specific type of victim, whether the criteria are subtle or obvious.


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