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South Africa's most prolific serial killers

South African flag with crime photos overlayed

The African continent’s southernmost country, South Africa is known globally as ‘The Rainbow Nation’, with its very own multi-coloured flag to underline the point. But when it comes to crime, it’s the blood red of that distinctive flag that really stands out.

The history of South Africa is sadly tainted by centuries of utterly horrendous violence. Not only has the place played host to a litany of political bloodshed, but it’s also been home to hundreds of vicious and sadistic murderers.

Moses Sithole – 38 victims

Moses Sithole got his moniker ‘The ABC Killer’ because he murdered victims in the Atteridgeville, Boksburg and Cleveland suburbs of Johannesburg.

Sithole had a very well-rehearsed and effective modus operandi when it came to murder. While he was convicted of killing 38 women, police suspected that the actual number of his victims was far greater. He could have been responsible for the deaths of at least 75 women.

Posing as a high-ranking executive working for a not-for-profit charity organisation, Sithole lured women to secluded areas under the pretence of offering them a job or job interview. Instead, he attacked, beat, raped and strangled them with their own underwear.

The killer was given a jail term of 50 years for each of the 38 murders, 12 years each for 40 rapes and five years for each of the six robberies he was convicted for. His cumulative effective sentence became 2,410 years because his sentences were handed down to him consecutively.

Cedric Maake – 27 victims

Maoupa Cedric Maake, known as 'The Wemmer Pan Killer', shared many similarities with our first profiled serial killer.

Like Moses Sithole, Maake ended up with a prison sentence of more than 1,000 years (1,340 years to be exact). Also, like Sithole, he operated in the mid-1990s and killed in the Johannesburg suburbs. However, Maake didn't just target women.

Maake confused South African police because of the varied nature of his victim profile. He spent two years effectively working as two killers. Police knew a deranged killer was stalking lone men and women walking. He smashed his victims' skulls in with a rock and raped the women.

At the same time, authorities were also chasing a man who killed tailors in their own shops, normally with a large hammer. Nothing suggested that one man was responsible for the two very different murder patterns. Until a break in the case regarding Maake's signature blew the thing wide open.

Bulelani Mabhayi – 20 victims

In the Eastern Cape community of Tholeni, Bulelani Mabhayi terrorised the locals for five years by preying on defenceless women and children, raping them and, in many cases, hacking them to death. In doing so he earned the nickname of ‘The Monster of Tholeni’.

Mabhayi broke into the houses of women at night, usually raping them and then slashing them to death with either an axe or a large machete-style knife called a panga. The callous killer's victim profile was broad. His youngest victim was just 14 months, while his eldest was 79 years old.

The courts found Bulelani Mabhayi guilty of 20 murders, six rapes and 10 burglaries. In September 2013, he received a sentence of 25 years to life in jail.

Louis van Schoor – 7 victims

Between the years 1986 and 1989, Sybrand Jacobus Lodewikus ‘Louis’ van Schoor murdered at least 39 people in South Africa. The reality is that the man almost certainly killed more. In fact, he confessed to over a hundred.

The man was a police officer and a security guard who shot dead huge numbers of alleged burglars in a matter of just a few years. After each incident, South African magistrates found that he had acted, apparently, entirely within the law. Not once was he even cautioned by the police or the courts.

He responded to the silent alarms of business premises being robbed, arriving armed and ready to kill. He then shot the suspect dead at the scene with his 9mm Parabellum pistol. The victims were always male and always black or mixed race.

Eventually, investigations were made and van Schoor’s overenthusiasm and racist motivations were uncovered. He was sentenced for seven murders and two attempted murders. He spent 20 years inside and has been a free man since 2004.

His daughter, Sabrina van Schoor, was later sentenced to 25 years in prison after hiring a hitman to cut her mother’s throat.