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20051121: In Search of a serial killer Fosaville Serial Killer News

Only the brave will attempt a solitary walk through Fosaville, a piece of barely touched, privately-owned land that links Newlands West to the nearby shopping centre and the Fosa tuberculosis clinic.

It was in this pristine area that a man, commonly known as the Fosaville serial killer, preyed on his victims between 1999 and 2003.

The serial killer's spree may have carried on had it not been for the local community setting fire to some parts of the shoulder-high grass in August 2003.

Ironically, this was done to ensure the pathways were safer to walk through for their community. After the fires had subsided the community made the gruesome discovery of the bodies of four women.

Most of the corpses found consisted of only skeletal remains, with only one corpse charred and burned beyond recognition.

For Insp Desiree Dudas, of Durban's Serious and Violent Crime Unit, the day she was drawn into the case is one she will never forget.

It was her birthday and she was relaxing at home with her family and was preparing to have lunch when she got an urgent call from her unit telling her to get to the scene in Newlands.

More bodies had been found and police knew they were dealing with a serial killer. Over the next few weeks police, using sniffer dogs, uncovered corpse after corpse until the eventual toll reached 12.

Many of the corpses' skeletal remains - some had lain in the field for three years - had to be pieced together.

All the victims were women, had their hands bound, were not fully clothed and had been strangled to death.

In one instance two bodies were found almost on top of each other.

It is believed the killer purposefully dragged one of his victims to the spot, raped her and dumped her near an already decomposing body.

Police continued to scour the area for a body so they could retrieve enough evidence from it to have even the slightest of leads.

"We were here for weeks, and when I was here I would go home with charcoal rings around the edge of my pants because the bush had been burnt.

"We went through every part of the bush looking for any clues. The thing I always remember was how hot it used to get," said Dudas.

Police came to the conclusion that the murders were the work of a serial killer who dumped the bodies of the women in the dense bush of the area.

They also discovered that the decomposing body of a woman found in the area in 2002 was also the work of the serial killer. That brought the total number of corpses found to 13.

The local community told police that because the bush was so dense, the smell of the decomposing bodies may have been mistaken for that of animal carcasses.

Police believe the Fosaville serial killer may have pounced on his victims like a predator stalks his prey.

During the day, Fosaville is as peaceful as a nature reserve with the sound of the nearby community drowned out by the sounds of nature.

At night, the area is pitch black with the only visible light coming from the busy Newlands West highway and the houses that surround the area.

As Dudas thumbs through the 13 dockets, she takes a drag on her cigarette, and explains how she revisits the case every two weeks.

Her desk has many dockets on other cases, but finding the Fosaville serial killer is a priority.

A can of half drunk soda and her son's Tomagochi toy are the only items that seem out of place on her desk."

If I don't feed it or take it to the toilet on time, it will die," she says, when asked about the toy.

Each of the dockets has pictures of the victims at the scene of their murders. One skeleton was found hidden away in a small cove between trees.

Because many of the bodies were in such a severe state of decomposition, police were not able to get any DNA evidence to assist them with their investigation.

"The freshest corpse was there for a year, but was very badly burnt when the community set fire to the bush."

No one has ever come forward to identify any of the victims and police believe they may have come from out of the province to seek work in Newlands.

"We believe this case does have similarities with the Phoenix serial killer and we believe the women may have gone with this man because he offered them work.

"They may have been desperate and most of them were in their 30s, with the youngest being 23 and the oldest about 40 years old."

Police search and rescue dogs are set loose in the area every three months to try and find any more bodies that were not discovered, or any new bodies.

In 2003, the ANC Women's League met with police and scattered flowers in the area to remember the women who had been killed.

"We interviewed a number of domestic workers in the area to find out if they were approached by anyone who promised them jobs, but we did not get any new information.

"The women we spoke to said they believed the victims were attacked and not offered jobs.

"Many members of the local community now refuse to use the area, even though it is a shorter route."

But before the discovery of the bodies, the route was often used, even at night, as a short- cut from one part of Newlands to another. Dudas believes the killer took the women's personal belongings, possibly discarding wallets, their bags and other documents, but hanging on to some of their personal belongings as trophies.

For police, not being able to arrest the person behind the 13 murders has proved frustra-ting.

"It does become frustrating because we have all this information and yet there is no strong lead as to who this guy is.

"We know he was from the area and knew it well; that he has either moved away or is taking a cooling off period. A lot of the guys in the unit believe he's dead."

Dudas believes the best way to catch the killer is if he strikes again.

"It's not the nicest thing to say, but we need DNA to find him.

"Either that, or someone comes forward who was attack-ed by him and managed to escape."

Forensic experts in Pretoria are busy trying to reconstruct the faces of the victims by using their skulls in the hopes of getting family members to recognise them.

But for the community in Newlands who live near Fosa-ville, the area will always be known for the brutal way in which 13 women lost their lives.

Only a well-worn footpath and tracks ground out by the occasional 4x4 vehicle hint that the area is disturbed by human activity.

Dotted by the occasional tree, Fosaville has natural cover of dense bush and trees. It was here that police thought they might find more victims after the 13th body was found. but the killer did not choose to dump his victims' bodies in the dense area.

Its secluded setting means Fosaville, which lies in the middle of houses and roads, is a place where no one can hear you scream.

Another theory police have is that the serial killer may have charmed his victims, offering them jobs and luring them to the area where he proceeded to overpower them, tie their hands and then rape and strangle them.

 


Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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