Strangler's Deadly Toll: 38 Murders - 40 Rapes
He murdered his victims. then torchered their victims
What drove a man to rape, then sadistically strangle his victims with their own underwear..
Standing in front of the judge, at Pretoria Supreme Court, South Africa, the young man nodded to confirm his name, Moses Sithole.
None of the irony would have been lost on the religious communities there.
In the Bible, Moses saved the ancient Jewish people from slavery. The name meaning `saviour' or 'deliverer'.
But this Moses wasn't about to save anyone. In that courtroom, he would be sentenced to 2,410 years in prison - 50 years for each of his 38 murders, 12 years for each of the 40 rapes, and five years for each of the six robberies.
His victims were women he'd raped, then strangled with their own underwear.
After that, he'd call their families and taunt them with the details of his attack.
Far from being a 'saviour', this Moses had taken 38 lives. But who was Moses the Monster?
Alone, aged 5 Moses Sithole's life was marked with death from an early age. He was only 5 when his dad, Simon, died.
For psychologist, Dr Nicola Davies, this is key.
The death of a parent doesn't stop at the loss of the physical presence,' she explains. 'Moses also lost all the roles a father plays, too.
The age of a child can impact on the way they react to the death of a parent, too. Moses was only 5 years old, so would have had absolutely no understanding of time or death.
`It's possible he didn't understand that his father was dead, but believed his father had left him, that it was his fault.'
And soon, Moses would be abandoned by his mother, Sophie, too.
She was evicted and facing a life on the streets, she left her five children at a police station knowing they'd be taken into care.
Here we have a 5-year-old child seeing the people who are meant to protect him, leaving him,' says Dr Davies.
`Moses was angry.
This manifested into a hatred of women, which led to rape and murder.'
The five kids went to an orphanage but, three years later, Sithole ran away.
By his early 20s, Sithole's hatred of women came pouring out in a series of three rapes.
He went to prison for them in 1987, where, he claimed, he was sexually assaulted. If true, it could have been a turning point.
After a traumatic childhood, Moses had found a way to gain control through assaulting vulnerable women. Now, in prison, that control had been taken away,' Dr Davies explains. 'His life went from perpetrator to victim, and it's likely he longed to regain power. When he did, his experiences may have increased the severity of his crimes.'
On his release from prison in the early 90s, in a place called Atteridgeville, Sithole's murder spree started. He'd pretend to be a businessman offering work In a country as poor as South Africa was in the early 90s, it was a guaranteed way of getting a woman's attention.
Once he was alone with a woman, he'd rape her, then strangle her with her own underwear.
Dr Davies suggests he was sending a message to his victims, that they had 'made their bed' and it was somehow their fault. But why were women so trusting of Sithole?
`He was so charming that his victims didn't know they were vulnerable,' says Dr Davies. 'When we're provided with the opportunity of something we need, in this case a job, our guard is dropped and we're vulnerable. Moses recognised this.'
Perhaps, most cruelly, Sithole would phone the families of his victims and tell them the graphic details of his crime.
For Dr Davies, this is very significant. 'It shows the evil that had "grown" within Moses,' she says. Taking someone's life was not enough to satisfy his sadism, but he gained further satisfaction from inflicting pain on the families of his victims.'
In an 18-month period, Sithole claimed at least 40 victims, leaving the country gripped by fear.
But in 1995, the police net tightened and Sithole went on the run. He resorted to robbery, turning to a relative for help.
But the relative tipped off the police and after a dramatic chase, when Sithole was shot in the foot, arm and stomach, he was finally arrested.
At his trial, Sithole initially pleaded not guilty but was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to a total of 2,410 years in prison.
In trying to understand why Sithole became a killer, it's impossible to avoid one question. His siblings had the same experiences - so, why aren't they serial killers?
Dr Davies makes some thought-provoking points.
`One important aspect is the age at which the children were abandoned by their mother,' she says. 'At 5, Moses was in a phase of development that could be highly influenced by experiences. Although this was also the case for his siblings, individuals cope differently. Moses Sithole clearly had a dangerous personality that was activated by his early childhood experiences.'
It would seem a tragic childhood and a dangerous personality is a lethal mix.
The ABC Murderer
Moses Sithole's crimes are often referred to as the ABC Murders. This is because he started his killing spree in the South African township Atteridgeville, before moving onto Boksburg, and then Cleveland. Was this coincidence? Or was there a reason in Sithole's twisted mind? We may never know.
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