Moses Sithole: South Africa's Worst Serial Killer

South Africa's worst serial killer was found guilty in 1997 of 38 murders and 40 rapes. What drove Moses Sithole to commit his heinous crimes?

Moses Sithole was born in 1964 to Simon and Sophie Sithole, one of five children, near Boksburg, in what was then the Transvaal Province of apartheid South Africa. Childhood poverty was exacerbated following the death of his father, and his mother, Sophie, unable to support the children, abandoned them at a local police station. They were placed in an orphanage in Kwazulu Natal, but systematic abuse caused the teenage Sithole to run away after three years there, seeking refuge first with his older brother, Patrick, before going to work in the Johannesburg gold mines.

Sithole was sexually precocious from an early age, but relationships were short-lived: it has been surmised that his mother’s abandonment of her children might have played a role in his aggressive attitudes to woman. He is also reported to have told some of his rape victims of his own bad experiences, at the hands of a previous girlfriend.

He has been described as a handsome and charming man, and most of his victims were enticed to their assaults, and often deaths, in broad daylight, with promises of employment opportunities that would never materialise. His social ease and intelligent demeanour made the string of brutal assaults even more chilling, and he was eventually charged with 38 murders and 40 rapes. A significant number of his victims were never identified.