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Considered one of South Africa's worst serial killers, Moses Sithole was found guilty of 38 murders and 40 rapes in 1997.
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Born in South Africa on November 17, 1964, Moses Sithole is considered one of South Africa's worst serial killers. In 1997, Sithole was found guilty of 38 murders and 40 rapes. A significant number of Sithole's victims were never identified.
Moses Sithole, one of five children, was born in Vosloorus, near Boksburg in the Transvaal Province of apartheid (now Gauteng), South Africa, on November 17, 1964, to Simon and Sophie Sithole. His childhood of poverty was exacerbated after his father died and his mother, unable to support the children, abandoned them at a local police station. They were placed in an orphanage in Kwazulu Natal, but systematic abuse provoked the teenage Sithole to run away after three years, seeking refuge first with his older brother Patrick before going to work in the Johannesburg gold mines.
Sithole was sexually precocious from an early age, but his relationships were short-lived. Some have surmised that his mother’s abandonment of her children might have played a role in his aggressive attitudes toward women. He also reportedly told some of his rape victims about his own bad experiences at the hands of a previous girlfriend.
Sithole has been described as a handsome and charming man, and most of his victims were enticed to their assaults, and often deaths, in broad daylight, with promises of employment opportunities that would never materialize. His social ease and intelligent demeanor made the string of brutal assaults even more chilling, and he was eventually charged with 38 murders and 40 rapes. A significant number of Sithole’s victims were never identified.
It is not known when Sithole raped his first victim, but his first recorded incidence of rape occurred in September 1987, involving 29-year-old Patrica Khumalo, who testified at his 1996 trial. Three other known rape victims came forward, including Buyiswa Doris Swakamisa, who was attacked in February 1989. She made a police report at the time that resulted in Sithole’s arrest and trial. In 1989, he was jailed in Boksburg Prison for six years for the rape of Swakamisa. Sithole maintained his innocence throughout the trial and was released early, in 1993, for good behavior.
Perhaps Sithole learned a lesson from his time in jail: that rape victims left alive can produce consequences. It is not known how soon after his release that he began his rape and killing spree, but between January and April 1995 in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, four bodies of young black women who had been strangled and probably raped were discovered. This began a chain of events that unearthed an appalling litany of brutality and death.
When newspapers became aware of the similarities in the killings of each victim, police were forced to admit that a serial killer might be operating in the area. The discovery of the body of one victim’s 2-year old son incited further media coverage, but in a society inured to violence, media interest was relatively brief.
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Many of the most horrifying acts of violence are committed by serial killers. Always looking for next victim, these murderers kill again and again, never fully satisfied by their bloody deeds. Their twisted motivations—and even more twisted techniques—land the people in this group among the most frightening criminals in history.
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