Durban - Experts and police agree you are more likely to be killed by your spouse, a relative, acquaintance, employee or business partner than by a stranger in a random act of crime. In fact 80 percent more likely as revealed in an analysis of 2 000 murders by the Institute of Security Studies and the police.
Passion, greed, jealously, drugs, alcohol and domestic disputes are most common reasons for murder.
But given South Africa’s notoriously high crime rate, it is unsurprising that when a murder is committed, the immediate response from the public is that it’s the work of out-of-control criminals.
The most recent murder to cause a public outcry on social media was last week’s gruesome killing of 20-year-old student Kurtlee Pillay. When news of Pillay’s death broke, both the public and media latched on the assumption he was killed for his VW Golf.
“It is the work of a hijacking syndicate,” was the general opinion.
This response was understandable considering it came hot on the heels of the murder and hijacking of another student, Shrivaar Panday, also driving a VW Golf.
Now it’s alleged that Kurtlee Pillay knew his killers and that his death was an act of revenge over a girl he and one of his alleged killer’s knew.
Like the Pillay killing, when British citizen Anni Dewani was found murdered in Cape Town in 2010 during her honeymoon the knee-jerk reaction was to blame it on our high crime rate and inadequate policing.
Jaws dropped when it later emerged that police suspected her husband Shrien had plotted and paid handsomely for Anni’s execution. He is standing trial in the western Cape High Court.
Acting Judge Patrick Maqubela also became a victim of murder that later turned out to be a “passion killing”. His wife Thandi carried out an intricate plan to murder her husband in 2009 as he slept.
She was convicted of murder last year and is due to be sentenced next month.
The SAPS’s provincial spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker agreed, “A very high percentage of murder victims are killed by someone they’ve interacted with previously.”
Naicker said men aged 17 to 39 were the most common victims and perpetrators were usually men aged 21 to 40.
“People are always up in arms when a murder is perpetrated but often it emerges that it was not a random killing. And little could have been done to prevent the murder, because the victim was accessible to the killer due to an established relationship,” said Naicker.
“Criminals generally won’t just kill their victims and (involve) themselves in a serious offence like murder when all they want is your belongings.
“They only kill when there is resistance or an attempt to capture them is made,” Naicker said.
Doctor Nirmala Gopal of the University of KZN’s Criminology Department said international studies showed there was nothing atypical about family murders or murders committed by an offender known to the victim.
These offences are preceded by an argument or fight, fury over one partner cheating on another, retaliation to an earlier dispute, or a drunken fight over an insult or any other form of disrespect, Gopal said
“The murder of Kurtlee Pillay is what can be regarded as an ‘honour contest’ killing. It is the type of killing where offenders feel vindicated and demonstrate their masculinity for the alleged romantic relationship between Kurtlee and the girlfriend of one of the perpetrators,” suggested Gopal.
Johan Burger from the Institute for Security Studies said the SAPS and his organisation jointly analysed 2 000 murder documents in 2009.
“We found in 80 percent of cases analysed the perpetrator was known to the victim.
“In 60 percent of those cases the perpetrators were family or friends and 20 percent were direct family,” Burger revealed.
But Burger believes “trends and precedents for murder back then and now are similar”.
He said the manner in which murder was reported via the media, where extra attention is given to house robberies, or other aggravated forms of robbery, has created an impression that all murders are similar.
But only 16 to 20 percent of these murders happened as a result of aggravated robbery or other crimes, Burger said.
Cases that prove the point
Charmaine Naidoo had just returned from work and was in the company of a few family members when “robbers” stormed into her Merebank home in February.
The intruders took cash, a cellphone, a TV set and bundled Naidoo into her own car and drove off. She was later found dead in the Kwamakhuta area.
Naidoo was shot, stabbed and strangled with shoelaces.
While the circumstances surrounding Naidoo’s death suggested a house robbery gone wrong, it was alleged a few days later that her husband Alvin Maistry had masterminded her death and hired the killers.
Since his arrest in April, Maistry has made repeated bids for bail, including a High Court application, without success.
Judge Patrick Maqubela
Political activist and acting judge Patrick Maqubela was believed to have been dead for approximately three days when he was found in the bedroom of his well secured Cape Town flat in 2009.
Initially the police believed he had suffered a heart attack. His glamorous businesswoman wife Thandi was also satisfied that her husband had died of “natural causes”.
But it eventually surfaced that Thandi, who was fed-up with her husband’s philandering ways, suffocated him with a piece of cling film.
Thandi was convicted of murder in 2013 but sentencing has been postponed to December because she has been admitted to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for observation.
Baby Jordan Leigh-Norton
Little Jordan Leigh-Norton was going to be too much of a financial burden for Dina Rodrigues who was going to marry the child’s father (Neil Wilson), so she paid for the child’s execution in 2005.
Rodrigues hired two men to pose as employees of a courier company and call on the Cape Town home that the six-month-old Jordan was living at.
Once the men gained entry they staged a robbery and killed the child.
Rodrigues, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was not prepared to have her marriage to Wilson saddled with maintenance costs.
Jordan was Wilson’s child from a previous relationship.
John and Hester Noble
More than 50 years of marriage ended tragically for Shongweni couple John and Hester Noble when they were brutally murdered in their home in November last year.
Two of the Nobles’ former employees, Scelo Matabane and Siyabonga Xaba, allegedly conspired to kill the couple after they had been fired. They were allegedly assisted by a friend, Khulekani Mathonsi.
The three accused allegedly attempted to throw police off their tracks with a staged robbery. Their matter is yet to be finalised in court.
Famed musician Taliep Petersen was shot execution-style in December 2006 when he allowed unknown men to enter his well-secured Cape Town home. The expected visitors turned out to be masked gunmen.
At the time of the incident, it was believed that Petersen’s killing was the result of a botched robbery.
Six months later, his wife, Najwa, was among those arrested for the death of the singer. In 2009, Najwa was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment for her role in orchestrating the “hit” on her husband.
The Lotter siblings Nicolette and Hardus attempted to feed investigators a tall story that masked intruders at their Westville home were responsible for the bloody murder of their parents Johan and Rieke.
But it was soon revealed that the siblings, together with Nicolette’s boyfriend Matthew Naidoo, worked in cahoots to commit the gruesome murders in 2008. In 2012 the son and daughter were handed 10 and 12 year prison terms while Naidoo, who masterminded the killings, received two life sentences.