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We are morbidly fascinated by criminal minds and what makes these people tick – or tick over at least. Johannesburg is no stranger to famous murders – and murderers. Check out some of the most famous murderers of all time, right in our very own city!
Daisy de Melker
Don’t be fooled by the sweet name, Daisy de Melker was certainly no wall flower. As if her picture wasn’t creepy enough, Daisy is in our numero uno spot for committing the most heinous crimes – and to her very own family members, Hello Joburgers.
Between the years of 1923 – 1932 Daisy racked up an impressive tally of three husbands. Sorry for their bad life choices. She, poisoned two of them, and her then 20-year-old son, Rhodes, with a variety of poisons – of which strychnine and arsenic where suspected as they were the most popular murder drugs at that time. Talk about a woman scorned.
The rumour is that the murders were committed for financial gain – and indeed she amassed a smallish fortune of roughly £ 6000 – a fair amount of money in those days (and these days too, actually!)
The ensuing court case gripped the nation and the queues outside the courthouse stretched around the block as the people of Joburg vied to get a seat inside, or even catch a glimpse of the famed murderess. This was long before Barry Batemen and twitter obviously!
After a month of questioning, witness testimonials and even exhuming the bodies of the three men, Daisy de Melker was sentenced to death by hanging for her atrocities and her remains rest in Pretoria.
Her home in Turf Club Street (South of Joburg) is popular with tourists as it is rumoured to be haunted and is located close to the well-known Turffontein racecourse.
Maake who is creatively known as the “Wemmer Pan Killer” because it was in this area of Johannesburg that he targeted most of his victims, began his killing spreein April 1996.
The Wemmer Pan murders involved several patterns of victims – one set were beaten to death with rocks and were both men and women who were walking alone when apprehended, as well as couples in cars around the Wemmer Pan area whom Maake would assault, shooting the men and raping the women.
The second set of murders were very specifically focused on tailors in the inner-city area, killed in their shops with hammers. Initially the police believed these to be two different suspects, however in 1998 the police put the two together after evidence came to light to match the two.
In 2000 he was convicted of a total of 27 murders, 26 attempted murders, 14 rapes, 41 aggravated robberies and many more less serious offenses, and was found guilty of 114 of the 134 charges and was sentenced to 27 life sentences plus 1159 years and 3 months imprisonment. His sentence amounted to a whopping 1 340 years in prison. We expect once he dies, Maake’s ghost will need to serve out the remaining sentence…
Wemmer Pan and the surrounding Pioneer Park are beautiful areas for picnics and rowing races take place on the lake. The park is named in memory of the founders of Johannesburg and the great industry of which it is the centre.
Gert van Rooyen
South Africa’s Bonnie and Clyde on steroids, Gert van Rooyen, was a South African paedophile and serial killer, who, along with his partner Joey Haarhoff (talk about keeping bad company) are believed to be responsible for the abduction, sexual assault and murder of several missing girls at his home in Malherbe Street, aged between nine and sixteen-years-old, across South Africa between the years of 1988 and 1989.
The newspapers were filled with pictures of the young school girls as their parents desperately tried to find them, and soon afterwards the nation watched in horror as tabloids published how the couple’s latest victim had escaped the home that she was being held in and reported them to the police. Their photographs were splashed across media worldwide.
Four days later Gert shot Joey and then himself. The house in Malherbe Street in Capital Park, Pretoria, (close to Pretoria University) was raised to the ground in an effort to find some proof as to where the girls were, but nothing was discovered besides trinkets such as school badges and bags were discovered. The bodies of the six victims have to this day not been discovered.
Considered one of South Africa’s worst serial killers, Moses Sithole was found guilty of 38 murders and 40 rapes in 1997. He was nicknamed the ‘ABC’ murderer as his crimes began in Atteridgeville, continued in Boksburg and finished in Cleveland – a huge distance between all three, covering almost a quarter of East Johannesburg. Definitely a more creative name than the Wemmer Pan Killer, right?
Hailing from Vosloorus, near Boksburg, Sithole’s childhood of poverty was exacerbated after his father died and his mother, unable to support the children, abandoned them at a local police station. They were placed in an orphanage where physical and sexual abuse were rife. Sithole ran away as a teenager and started working on the gold mines.
Sithole lured his victims to their assaults, and often deaths, in broad daylight (talk about brazen) with promises of employment opportunities that would never materialize. Many of Sithole’s victims were never identified.
After his trial and admitting to the murders, Sithole was incarcerated in the maximum-security section of Pretoria Central Prison. He was also diagnosed with HIV – the irony being that his medical treatment for his HIV condition in prison far exceeds any treatment available to the average South African citizen and will likely grant him a much longer life – in prison.
The Murder of Alec Steenkamp
Alec Steenkamp was murdered with a hammer and buried in a shallow grave in Brixton, however it took nine years for the murderer to be caught – a long time for a family to wait for justice indeed!
Steenkamp’s wife informed the police that the murder had been committed by police informant Ken Downey in 1996, however they did not believe her. In 2004 Steenkamp’s daughter hired a private investigator who in the space of 4 days tracked down Alec Steenkamp’s remains buried at Downey’s house in Putney Street, Brixton.
Downey fled to Mozambique, but soon thereafter turned himself over and was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Steenkamp – a crime he still denies having committed.
Testimony’s and evidence slowly surfaced, and the case was put together that proved that Steenkamp was killed while he was at Downey’s house in Brixton to collect money Downey owed his brother, Tom Steenkamp.
The judge on the case ruled that Downey couldn’t pay his debt – which amounted to thousands of Rands – and so opted to kill Steenkamp. Steenkamp suffered three fatal wounds to his skull and was buried in the shallow grave, where he remained for almost 9 years. This is indeed a bizarre one.
Join us again in June for another weird and wonderful Top 5 from the city of Jozi!
Hello Joburg was first published in April 1980 as a monthly restaurant and entertainment magazine. Over the years we have developed a network of patriotic Joburgers that love nothing more than sharing their experiences in this beautiful city!