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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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However, over the next few months in the vicinity of Pretoria, the recovery of several bodies all sharing the same gruesome pattern of having been raped, tied up and strangled with their own underwear gave the public pause. On July 17, 1995, a witness saw Sithole acting suspiciously while in the company of a young woman; the witness then discovered her body when he went to investigate. Unfortunately,
the witness had been too far away to identify the killer.
A special investigating team was established within the Pretoria Murder and Robbery Unit to determine whether the murders conformed to a pattern, but the method of attack varied to such an extent that it was impossible to be certain that one killer was responsible. As more victims were identified and as the chronology of deaths, rather than the discovery of their bodies, became apparent, clear evidence showed that the killer was evolving his murder technique to extract the greatest pain from his victims, assumedly increasing his own pleasure. His means of approach was also clarified: In a significant number of cases, the victim had been meeting someone who had promised them employment.
On September 16, 1995, a body was discovered at the Van Dyk Mine near Boksburg. Further investigation revealed mass graves. Forensic experts recovered 10 bodies in varying degrees of decomposition over the next 48 hours. Investigators were certain that the Boksburg bodies were linked with the victims at Atteridgeville. Media attention was intense throughout the recovery operation, and even President Nelson Mandela visited the scene of the grisly discoveries.
Public concern increased with the media coverage, and local authorities sought external help from retired FBI profiler Robert Ressler, who arrived on September 23, 1995. He assisted in developing a profile of the serial killer. The profile indicated that an intelligent, organized individual with a high sex drive was responsible and was operating with a growing sense of confidence, perhaps with the assistance of a second killer.
While the profiling was underway, investigations at the gravesite revealed that one of the victims found, Amelia Rapodile, had last been seen before an appointment to see a man named Moses Sithole on September 7. Investigators found a job application stating she had been offered a position. When a second victim showed a similar connection to Sithole, police were confident they had unearthed a likely suspect. They were unable, however, to locate Sithole, who continued with his killing spree, unfazed by the manhunt and media attention. The body of Agnes Mbuli was discovered near Benoni on October 3, 1995.
That same day, the Star newspaper received a call from a man claiming to be the serial killer. Because he had information not known to the general public, police were inclined to believe it was Sithole. An attempt to set up a meeting with him failed, however, and three more bodies were discovered over the next 10 days, forcing police to release Sithole’s details to the media.
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