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The BBC's Martin Turner in Johannesburg
"Police say the two men left a horrific trail behind"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
SA 'serial killers' face 51 charges
Soweto scene
Some of the murder victims were from Soweto township
South African police are to charge two suspects in what is thought to be the worst case of suspected serial killing in the country's history.

The two men are to be charged with murdering 51 people, including 17 children.

Police say most of the dead were women who had been raped before being murdered.

Other victims were children as young as five.

The names of the two men have not been released as they have not yet been formally charged.

The victims were killed over a three-year period starting in 1995. The murders took place in central Johannesburg, Soweto, and areas nearby.

Crime scenes

The South African Police Service said in a statement that the two suspects had already pointed out several places where the killings took place.

There were facts about the case that made the investigating officer suspect a link with the serial killings

Police director Henriette Bester

Police say 32 of the 51 victims were women. Another 14 were children aged between five and eight.

Police director Henriette Bester said the two suspects were already in custody on unrelated charges.

"When one of the two men was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in jail on a rape charge, there were facts about the case that made the investigating officer suspect a link with the serial killings, so he began looking for connections," she said.


Police believed he had worked with accomplice, and the man to whom their inquiries led was also in custody on separate charges.

Only two of the killers' alleged victims survived.

One, wheelchair-bound Elsie Aspeling, survived for two days in a field until a farmer heard her screams for help. Her husband died in the attack.

News of the impending charges comes only four months after another serial killer, Cedric Maake, was sentenced to 1,340 years in prison for 27 murders, which also took place in and around Johannesburg.

Murder rate

The country's worst convicted serial killer is Moses Sithole, who was sentenced to more than 2,400 years in 1997 for 38 murders and 40 rapes.

Following repeated cases of serial killing over the last decade, South Africa is now a world leader in the psychological profiling of multiple murderers.

South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with more than 55 killings per 100,000 people last year.

That compares with levels of around six per 100,000 in the United States, and under three per 100,000 in the UK.

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