Victim of Cape Town 'serial killer' had eerie premonition of her fate

19 January 2015 - 16:03 By Shanaaz Eggington and Nashira Davids
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She was just 20 years old with a small child, but Nothemba Ndondo had a premonition her life was about to end.

On January 27 last year, she wrote on Facebook: "I will be out of this world soon."

Eleven months later she was dead, her body found in a shallow grave in an open field near Cape Town's bustling Century City.

Police have arrested a man who had a job close by to where Ndondo worked but have resisted all inquiries linking him to her killing and the murders of other women in the area.

However, police do believe that Ndondo is the latest victim of what they believe could be a serial killer.

It is suspected the Khayelitsha mother was killed on her way to or from the Ratanga Junction theme park, where she worked as a cleaner.

Her toddler son, of whom she often posted photos, calling him "mummy's boy" and "ma angel", will now grow up without a mother.

The bodies of six black women aged between 20 and 32 have been found in the field over the past 16 months, in varying stages of decomposition.

They were all naked, with their hands tied behind their backs.

It is believed they were among the hundreds of commuters who each day arrive by bus or train - many of them from Cape Town's townships - and walk across the bridge over the N1, which leads to their workplaces in the booming precinct of Century City.

Besides Ratanga Junction, the area is also home to the upmarket Canal Walk shopping centre, several business blocks and hundreds of expensive apartments and townhouses.

At the end of the day, often after dark, they make their way back to the station, across a field that residents of nearby impoverished Kensington say is a crime magnet. The station is the departure point for the long ride home.

The suspect was arrested this week and charged with robbery and rape committed in February 2013, but police were not willing to speculate about any connection to the murders.

Investigators are also reluctant to release details of the victims because some have yet to be positively identified by DNA, a painstaking process that can take months.

Because of the advanced state of decomposition, many of the victims were unrecognisable. One of the bodies was almost destroyed by a bush fire.


"We have identified some, and are working on others. We are also scrutinising the missing-persons register," said a source close to the investigation.

"We cannot name these people in the media if we haven't even told their families that it is indeed their missing loved ones," he said.

The first victim was discovered in September 2013 and when Ndondo's body was found on December 19, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille announced a R50000 reward for information on the killings.

The suburb of Kensington is adjacent to the Century City Station where the bodies were found. Residents claim they warned officials, including employees of Transnet, the owners of the land where the station was built, several months ago that the area was unsafe.

After the station was built in 2010, developers left the area with mounds of earth and the bush was overgrown.

Mariam Oliver, secretary of the Kensington Factreton Ratepayers Association, said they never expected murder. She said people had been held up at gunpoint there frequently.

"You have this beautiful Century City on the other side and then you have a place as old as ours, still without housing. People are living in shacks and we have even more backyard dwellers. We are faced with unemployment, the school dropout rate is high and so is substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. This community has been forgotten," said Oliver.

The suspect's 65-year-old aunt said this week she was shocked he had been linked to the crimes. She described him as reclusive and said she had "never seen him with a girlfriend".

She blamed tik for his woes. She said he had been convicted twice of theft.

"Police linked him to the crime through leggings of the victims found in his room," she said.

"I cannot vouch for his innocence. I think tik turned him into a monster."

A neighbour said he was shocked by the arrest.

"It's not like him. He grew up in front of me. He was always a child who kept to himself. He was never much into girls."


A city strewn with bodies

This is not the first time reports of a serial killer have struck fear into the residents of Cape Town.

When Norman "Afzal" Simons (above) was jailed in 1995, the city breathed a collective sigh of relief. The killer was dubbed the Station Strangler because many of his victims were lured from railway stations. The bodies of 22 people were recovered.

Although he was convicted for only one of the murders, the city had been chilled by the spectre of one sickening case after another: always a young boy, always raped, always buried in a shallow grave near a station with his hands tied behind his back.

Jackie de Wet, an expert in forensic psychology and criminology, said there was good reason for the police's reluctance to label the murders serial killings.

"Police are reluctant to say yes, it's a serial killer because of the panic it fuels. Plus, someone wrongly accused will still be ostracised by the community if he goes back proven innocent," De Wet said.

"Serial killers also follow the media and it can change the behaviour of the serial killer or rapist, then they have to start from scratch again. The most dangerous thing in any case is speculation. It can blow up in your face and you end up with 10 more victims."


SA's worst serial killers

Moses Sithole

Over the space of just two years (1994-5), the so-called "ABC killer" (above) raped and murdered 38 women, all in Gauteng. He lured his victims by offering them jobs at a children's home. Most of his victims were strangled with their own underwear. He was sentenced to 2410 years and is incarcerated in Pretoria Central Prison's C-Max section with no chance of parole before 930 years.

Cedric Maake

Known to most as the Wemmer Pan Killer, Maake raped 14 women and murdered 27 in a spate that lasted from 1996 to 1997. Rather than have a favourite "type" on his killing sprees, his victims spanned from 15 years old to 74 and included males and females. During his trial, he insisted he was innocent. He is serving a 1340-year prison sentence.

Bulelani Mabhayi

Between 2007 and 2011, Mabhayi murdered nine children (the youngest of whom was 18 months old) and 11 women from a small village near Butterworth in the Eastern Cape. A bloody shoe led to his arrest. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 life sentences.

Sipho Thwala

Like Sithole, Thwala lured his victims with promises of employment and also strangled them with their own underwear. Most of his 19 victims were found buried in shallow graves in or close to the sugarcane fields near Phoenix in KwaZulu-Natal. They were killed between 1996 and 1997, and he was sentenced to 506 years.

Christopher Zikode

Also known as the Donnybrook serial killer, Zikode raped and murdered 18 women in KwaZulu-Natal. In the second year of his murder spree (1995) he was arrested and then released on R300 bail - after which he simply carried on with his spree. He was later sentenced to 140 years in prison.

- Additional reporting by Aphiwe Deklerk, Tanya Faber,

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