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Serial killers look normal: expert

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Independent Newspapers

Johannes de Jager was convicted of killing 18-year-old prostitute Hiltina Alexander in 2008 and 16-year-old Charmaine Mare last year. File picture: Bheki Radebe

Cape Town - Johannes Christiaan de Jager can be classified as a serial killer despite having a normal childhood and no visible mental illness, a police forensic psychologist told the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

“We don't often find much mental illness issues. Most serial murderers appear very normal which is why most people find it such a fearful concept,” police investigative psychology unit commander Brigadier Gerard Labuschagne told the court.

“They appear to be hardworking, very reliable, and a loving wife or husband.”

Labuschagne was being cross-examined by Sakkie Maartens, for De Jager, in sentencing proceedings.

He was called by the State in aggravation of sentence.

De Jager, 49, was last month convicted of killing 18-year-old prostitute Hiltina Alexander in 2008 and 16-year-old Charmaine Mare last year. Both crimes were committed in Cape Town.

Labuschagne had testified that De Jager fit the criteria for a serial killer.

Maartens said he had personally consulted his client's family and friends and found no indication of untoward or awkward behaviour in his past.

He had matriculated, gone to the army, and eventually set up a car workshop. De Jager had also testified under oath that he had no psychological problems that he was aware of, Maartens said.

He asked Labuschagne whether there was a reasonable possibility his client could be a psychopath, based on the docket, his interview with De Jager's ex-girlfriend, the indictment, a post-fact visit to the crime scene, and his training and experience.

“I can't say that anything I saw gave me such a concern,” Labuschagne replied.

“His ex-girlfriend spoke very positively of him and did not notice anything out of the ordinary or abnormal. She did not mention anything that was for me, a so-called red flag.”

The police investigative psychology unit commander had been involved in the investigation of over 110 serial murders and 200

serial rapes.

Maartens asked if serial killers could be put on a scale in terms of how dangerous they were.

The expert replied that danger depended on whether the killer tortured victims, targeted minors, kept victims alive for extended periods, or had psychopathic personalities.

It was his opinion that serial killers could generally not be rehabilitated.

“Those people who have multiple victims tend to be at a high risk of re-offending... and any sex offender is extremely difficult to rehabilitate since their crimes are linked to their sex drives.”

He said it was only when offenders admitted responsibility for their actions that rehabilitation was possible.

“(It is my opinion) that the accused poses and will continue to pose a real and significant threat to adult females.”

Labuschagne said he would recommend that De Jager receive appropriate psychotherapy from a clinical psychologist while in prison and that a copy of his report be considered should De Jager be up for parole.

Sapa


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