WATCH | Krugersdorp killings: 'Cult leaders are cunning and believe they are invincible'
Followers have low self-worth and lack a sense of belonging
The leaders of occult groups often believe they are invincible and protected by dark forces, becoming capable of gratuitous violence, sadistic acts and even murder.
This is according to a criminal expert who specialises in investigating occult activity across South Africa, providing her analysis on the infamous Krugersdorp killings that saw 11 people murdered by cultists Cecilia Steyn, Marinda Steyn, her two children, Le Roux and Marcel, and Zak Valentine, as well as John Barnard who was drawn into their net.
Professor Anni Hesselink, from the criminology department at Unisa, said occult-type murders are all about power.
Leaders of occult groups focus on consolidating their power in a group, controlling their members, creating fear, seeking status, attention and fame, she said.
The five main Krugersdorp killers were part of Electus Per Deus, a group that viewed themselves as "Chosen by God", targeting members of a local church group and eventually killing for financial gain.
Hesselink said occult murders are conducted to “feed the souls of the killers and enhance their powers”.
"They believe they are above the law, they lack remorse… thrive on fear. Drugs are often involved."
Members of these murderous groups are superstitious and wholeheartedly believe in their leader.
"Members of the group also believe that they (and their leader) have magical powers, are invincible and have an invisible shield that protects them."
Hesselink said occult leaders are often intelligent and charming, but exhibit underlying pathology and are emotionally unstable.
They display cunning behaviour, exhibiting great manipulation, intimidation and persuasive skills, and are also capable of violence.
"The aim is to control and to display inner powers to members. They control members mentally and physically and instil fear.
"However, with all this, they fail to realise that their seemingly magical powers cannot safeguard them against being arrested, found guilty and being punished."
Leaders’ rigid thinking patterns mean that they lack insight and understanding, and fail to empathise with their victims.
However, this often means they have an amazing ability to dominate, manipulate, intimidate, influence and indoctrinate their followers.
"Lastly, these type of offenders have distorted and wicked minds who lure and ‘feed’ mentally, and often psychically, on the murders or victims."
The followers in such groups, Hesselink said, have low self-esteem, low self-worth, lack a sense of belonging, and are often isolated loners.
She said the followers believe they too can harness such amazing powers and abilities and are often terrified of opposing the leader.
"These members are susceptible to influence and manipulation and may exhibit underlying personality disorders, history of childhood abuse, neglect and rejection, subjection to bullying behaviour, are emotionally and mentally vulnerable, if not unstable, often being ostracised by peers or the community."