Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Moses Sithole

Prison Video

On Dec. 3, 1996, a video was shown in the Pretoria Supreme Court. It wasnt of good quality, but it featured Moses Sithole in prison, speaking about the women he had murdered.

The video was made by fellow inmates in Boksburg Prison not long after Sitholes arrest. Charles Schoeman, Jacques Rogge and Mark Halligan, former police officers, were involved in a $491,800 diamond robbery in Amanzimtoti in 1995. They also murdered an accomplice. Rogge met Sithole in the infirmary, where the former slept due to his diabetes. Apparently, Sithole asked Rogge if he could steal some pills so that he could commit suicide. But first he wanted to tell his story. Schoeman, Rogge, Halligan and Sithole all signed a contract, whereby they would share the profits from the sale of the story. Sitholes share was to go to his daughter.

Sithole looks quite comfortable on the video, sitting back and smoking. He describes how the first woman he killed, shouted at him when he asked her for directions. This, according to him, was in July 1995. Apparently he manage to calm her down and arranged to meet her at a later date. That was when he throttled her. I cannot remember her name, he says on the video, according to The Star of Dec. 4, 1996. I killed her and left her there. I went straight home and had a shower.

He continues to tell the camera that he has killed 29 women. I dont know where the other nine come from, he is quoted in the Beeld of the same date. If there was blood or injuries, they werent my women.

All his victims had reminded him of the woman who had falsely accused him of rape in 1989. On the video he claims that he did not rape any of them, although some apparently offered to sleep with him in order to live. Some women he did not attack, because he saw that they were sincere and without pretensions, according to the Beeld article.

He strangled his victims from behind, because he did not want to look into their eyes. This is interesting. Despite the fact that Sithole liked to inspire fear in his victims by leading them through the rotting corpses of his earlier victims, he did not like blood and he didnt want to see their faces as he stole their lives. Stewart Wilken, on the other hand, got his main thrill from watching his victims eyes bulge at the moment they died. He called this the jelleybean effect, and he would throttle and rape them simultaneously so that he could climax at this very moment.

On the video, Schoeman asks Sithole if there is a victim that he recalls more than the others. Sithole tells him about Amelia Rapodile, one of the ten women found at the Van Dyk Mine, as reported by The Star of Dec. 4, 1996: She started to fight. I gave her a chance to fight and I tell her, if you lose, you die ... She was using her feet and kicked me [Amelia was apparently trained in karate]. Then she tried to grab my clothes, but she could not grab me. I just tell her bye-bye.

At one stage, while Sithole is describing these murders, he languidly bites into an apple.

Although chilling, it was not the content of the video which led to the drama, but everything surrounding its production.

At first there was no indication as to how Charles Schoeman and his cohorts got their hands on a video camera. The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) wanted to launch an internal investigation when the existence of the video had become known, but Deputy Attorney-General Retha Meintjes asked them to defer since she wanted to keep it secret until the trial. Still, since it is illegal both to make a recording in prison and to publish a prisoners life story without the written authorisation of the Commissioner of the DCS, Schoeman and the others faced possible criminal charges. Any potential financial gain was highly unlikely.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

There was a postponement at this stage, and when the trial resumed on Jan. 29, 1997, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of President Mandela, was in attendance. Sithole smiled at her; she only stared back.

A week later it became known that Charles Schoeman did not want to testify in the trial, for fear of his life. Apparently, since his involvement in the Sithole video had been revealed, Schoeman had been threatened. He wrote in a letter to the Boksburg Prison Prisoners Executive Committee, quoted in The Star of Feb. 6, 1997, that since the day all this became known, my whole life has been turned upside down and now I am being harassed and intimidated to such an extent that I can no longer see my way open to testify for the prosecution in this matter. I should have kept my mouth shut and stayed out of this affair. He also claimed a warder had helped him to obtain the video equipment. The content of Sitholes confession had troubled him to such an extent that he contacted the police.

On Feb. 10, Schoeman did take the stand. He had been promised indemnity for his involvement in the making of the video and all charges surrounding it, provided that he testified honestly. Apparently, they had originally made audio recordings of Sitholes story. Schoeman contacted the police and Capt. Leon Nel of the East Rand Murder and Robbery Unit provided him with the video recording equipment via Schoemans wife. Since there was now police involvement, and Sithole had not been told that the recordings would be used during his trial, nor had he been informed of his rights prior to the recordings, his attorney stated that he would object to its inclusion.

An American voice analysis expert, Loni Smrkovski, was flown to South Africa to testify about the recordings of the man who had phoned Tamsen de Beer. He concurred with Dr. Leendert Jansens findings that the voice matched that of Moses Sithole. He also provided a practical example, using the voices of Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca and Rich Little, a voice mimic.

This was followed by days and days of DNA testimony, linking Sithole to numerous victims with varying degrees of certainty. Superintendent Petra Hennop of the Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria began by explaining the nature of DNA, the tests involved and the other basics of DNA analysis, since this was still relatively new to South African courts.

The trial dragged on. There was also a trial-within-a-trial to determine whether the confession recorded by the police in 1 Military Hospital shortly after his arrest was admissible, since Sithole claimed he had been coerced and told what to say, without proper representation. In addition, it dealt with Sitholes state of mind when he had pointed out the crime scenes. He claimed these had also been shown to him by the police. Finally, on July 29, the judge denied Sitholes accusations and the confessions were accepted into evidence. Detectives proceeded to testify about the scenes Sithole had pointed out.

On Aug. 15, the State closed its case. It had taken almost a year and $229,500.

The defence put Sithole on the stand. Basically, he told the court that he knew nothing, he had done nothing, and everything he had said in his confession and any crime scenes he had pointed out had been fed to him by the police. He did admit to knowing one of the rape victims, Lindiwe Nkosi, stating that her sister had been his girlfriend at that time, but he denied raping her. In addition, he still professed his innocence in relation to the rape for which he had been sent to jail in 1989. The Star of Aug. 27, 1997, described Sitholes testimony as rambling, often incoherent.

Finally, on Dec. 4, 1997, Justice David Curlewis was ready to pass judgement on Moses Sithole.

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