Moses Sithole, also dubbed as the ABC killer by the South Africans, was a serial killer and a rapist who carried out the crimes in and around cities of South Africa moving across Atteridgeville, Boalsburg, and Cleveland (ABC killer).

Born on 17th November 1964, Sithole was the third child of Simon and Sophie Sithole and had four siblings. His father passed away when he was six years old as a result of which his mother had to take care of all the five children. This soon became a heavy burden for her and she abandoned all of them near a police station from where the siblings were taken into an orphanage.

The orphanage days however was not very lively and comforting for Moses Sithole. He faced physical and sexual abuse along with mistreatment and torture. After a few years, he ran away from the orphanage taking refuge at his cousin brother’s place in Johannesburg where he started working in menial jobs including farms and goldmines.

With occasional odd jobs, Moses started earning a basic income. He was a kind, charming person in society, and children adored him as he would help the street kids to get back home. He also helped neighborhood women with grocery and vegetable shopping.

Other than occasional awkwardness near women, there was nothing else that seemed suspicious about Moses to the public. Hence when he started an organization for helping children who suffered abuse, a huge amount of people supported him in terms of the setup and funding.

Around the year 1986, Sithole set up the organization calling it “Youth Against Human Abuse” which aimed at the stoppage of child abuse and acted as a shelter for those who suffered the same. Little did the children whom he protected and the people who supported him knew that they were trusting someone who was going to be the worst serial killer ever in South Africa.

Budding of His Criminal Mind

The first crime committed by Moses Sithole is still unknown. But the first documented crime was committed soon after he set up the organization. In September 1987, Patrica Khumalo, a 29-year-old woman was raped by Sithole.

As per reports, Sithole offered Patrica a job at his NGO and had asked her to meet him to discuss the same. Patrica, who was an only child with all the family duties had accepted the offer and visited Sithole at his house. He then attacked her and raped her. She managed to escape but did not report it with the fear of defamatory procedures and the mental shock she was in then.

In the year 1989, Buyiswa Swakamisa, a 30-year-old woman started working at Sithole’s NGO. Moses soon started dating her and they were in a platonic relationship. After three months he tried to strangle her while they were making out. She escaped his vicinity and reported the incident to the police. Sithole was arrested in the same year and was given six years imprisonment. 

In the year 1993, Sithole was released on account of good behavior. But the killing spree was just starting. From December 1993, the country witnessed perhaps one of the most scariest and chilling serial killings ever.

The Ruthless Murders and Modus Operandi

In the following years, twenty-plus women’s corpses surfaced in Atteridgeville. The police force was on strict duty anticipating that there was a serial killer on the loose.

On 16th September 1995, a female corpse was found near Van Dyk Mine. Fifteen minutes later another woman’s body was found around the same place. Both of them were African and were around twenty years old. 

48 hours later at the place, ten more bodies were found. This created havoc among the public that led the media to rush into Van Dyk Mine. By then, the country had confirmed that there surely was a serial killer targeting young women.

Also, the police were able to link the modus operandi of both the crimes to be the same. Despite all the linkage of the modus operandi and evidence, it never led the police towards Moses Sithole.

The victims were all young women aged between 18-40 years. All of them were given job offers and were lured in through official conversations. The method of crime was that the victims were strangled to death post-rape by their undergarments with their hands tied behind them. Once dead Moses would dumb their bodies in forest-covered areas or marshlands.

Final Arrest of Moses Sithole

When the murder rate was increasing day by day, Moses contacted a famous photographer and requested to link him up with any organization that worked with homeless children. When questioned about the necessity of such an organization for a forty-year-old man, Mosses claimed that it was for two homeless children, who were living under his care. 

He got into foster homecare and befriended the manager and soon started working in the organization.

A month later he met Tryphena Mogotri who was in search of a job. He offered her a job at the children’s center and both of them met at his place and was never found after that. Her friend filed a missing report and stated that the last person Tryphina met was Sithole.

It was not long before the police identified him and pulled out his case files as he already had a rape case registered years back. Immediate fact and data checks were run on him which connected him to the cases.

Also, the samples which forensic experts had to analyze back to back due to the spree of killings that have been occurring, was subjected to DNA profiling and it matched with the record of Sithole’s that the police already had.

The police reached his home at Transvaal but found only his innocent wife there. On explaining the circumstances and crime he had committed she agreed to cooperate with the police and helped to trap Moses Sithole.

On November 6, 1995, Sithole was called in by his wife where the police arrested him. The trial and the country wanted him to be executed, however, due to the absence of capital punishment in South African laws back then, he was sentenced to imprisonment for 2,410 years with the possibility of parole after 930 years. 

The real reason as to why he committed the murder was never disclosed. Nevertheless, Sithole did accept that he had a wave of huge anger on his mother after she abandoned him and his siblings as a result of which he developed a common hatred toward all the women.

He was also sexually overactive and did not have control over himself, which is why he preferred to rape them before killing them. Sithole remains incarcerated in Mangaung Correctional Center in Bloemfontein.

Categories: Case Studies


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