Between July 1994 and October 1995 the ‘ABC KILLER’ haunted the heart of every black woman in South Africa. Named as such because he targeted victims in Atteridgeville, Benoni and Cleveland, the ‘ABC Killer’ raped and murdered more than 37 black women within these 15 short months. Born in the township of Vosloorus on the 17th of November 1964, Moses Sithole was dragged into a world of poverty, oppression and segregation under the Apartheid regime. His mother was an alcoholic who regularly beat Moses and his 5 siblings. One of his siblings, his step-sister, raped Moses when he was still very young.
At the age of 6, his father, the sole provider of the family, died, resulting in the eviction of the Sithole-household from their tin-roofed residence. After his father’s passing, his mother abandoned them, and they were subsequently juggled between one poorly-managed youth home and the next. Moses said the following about the orphanages, “You had to be strong to survive. ” Moses ran away numerous times, once even returning to his mother. However, their reunion was short-lived, as she did not want him and sent him back swiftly.
When in his early teens, Moses ran away once more to Vosloorus. He quickly became popular with the local women for his good looks, disarming smile and charm. His defence attorney, Eben Jordaan, described Moses as “a very intelligent man. ” However, for all his virtues, Moses also had his vices. He was quick-tempered and prone to violent outbursts against women. It is surmised that this stems from abandonment and rejection issues due to his mother. Another contributing factor was his step-sister raping him, making him feel powerless. Moses felt betrayed by every single woman in his life.
Thus, in 1987, at the age of only 22, he sexually assaulted a woman for the first time and got his revenge. Over the next 2 years Moses raped various other women and with each attack he became more violent. Fearing for their lives, his victims kept quiet, all except Buyiswa Doris Swakamisa who reported him to the police in February 1989. Moses viewed this as yet another betrayal by a woman. Moses was sentenced to 7 years in Boksburg prison. It was inside this prison that the tables were turned. Some of his fellow inmates assaulted and sodomized Moses.
Once released from prison, after serving only 4 years, he decided that if he killed his victims they could never betray him. In early July 1994 he raped 19 year old Maria Manaba in an abandoned veld and then strangled her. It was his first muder. Moses became addicted to the surge of power he felt when raping and killing women, later saying, “Some of them will pray to me like a God. ” By August 1995 he had sexually assaulted and murdered more than 20 women. His modus operandi always remained the same. He would approach a woman searching for employment, introduce himself as a businessman and claim to have high-paying work for her.
Moses even went as far as inventing a fictitious social service organization which was ironically called ‘Youth against Human Abuse’. He would then show the women where the organization’s ‘offices’ were, taking a ‘shortcut’ through a veld. Once out of sight he would pull out a knife and make them disrobe. Moses would then rape and strangle the women in broad daylight with their own underwear. Moses enjoyed strangling his victims because it prolonged his killing experience, and thus his sense of empowerment. He liked to toy with and torture his victims.
Sometimes he would cut off the straps of their handbags, tie one end around their necks and the other around a low branch of a tree. He would make them stand for hours and watch as their legs gradually became too tired to support their own body weight, causing them to slowly lower themselves to the ground and essentially strangle themselves to death. Soon, not even the act of killing was enough for Moses. He also had to revel in his murders and thus started to call the families of his victims, taunting them. He said to one of his victim’s grandmothers, “You are now walking over the grave of Monica. In August 1995 he targeted Tryphina Mogotsi. Her body was found 1 month later in a veld, along with 10 other decomposing bodies, including that of a lifeless infant thrown beside its cold mother. The police interviewed all the victims’ families, friends and co-workers. Tryphina’s colleagues told the police that a man had offered her a new job a few days before she disappeared, and that he had said his name was Moses Sithole. After corroborating similar stories with the families, friends and colleagues of some of the other victims, the police finally had a suspect.
In an attempt to throw the police off his trail, Moses called a reporter at the Johannesburg Star newspaper. He introduced himself as “the man that everyone is looking for” and said his name was Joseph. In order to convince the reporter and the police that he indeed was the real ‘ABC Killer’, Moses, or Joseph, gave them the locations of 2 bodies which had not yet been found, one of which was hanging from a tree. Later, Moses contacted his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law informed the police and they set a trap for Moses. The police were successful in capturing Moses, although he was shot in the leg and abdomen in the process.
Moses was charged with 38 counts of murder, 40 counts of rape and 6 counts of robbery. He pled not guilty to all charges. On the 4th of December 1997 he was found guilty on all charges. It took 3 hours to read the verdict. The judge stated that he would have had no hesitation in pronouncing a death sentence on Sithole. However, the death penalty was no longer constitutional and thus Sithole was sentenced to 2 410 years in prison. When asked why he raped and murdered 37 women, he simply replied, “I fully hate a black woman. A woman can hurt you more than a man, more than anybody in this world. I was teaching them a lesson. ”