On May 2, 1997, authorities arrested self-described Indonesian witch doctor Ahmad Suradji after three bodies were found buried in a sugarcane plantation near his home on the outskirts of Medan, the capital of North Sumatra.
Ahmad, also known as Nasib Kelewang or Datuk Maringgi, initially confessed to killing 16 women over a five-year period. A search of Ahmad's property revealed clothes and watches belonging to 25 missing women. Under further questioning the 48-year-old cattle breeder increased the body count of his 11-year rampage to 42. Ahmad's three wives, all sisters, were also arrested for helping him commit the murders and hide the corpses. The oldest wife, Tumini, was tried as his accomplice in his 11-year rampage.
The sorcerer was revered by locals who believed he had paranormal powers, and often asked him for medical and spiritual advice. Many women would hire him to cast magic spells to ensure the faithfulness of their husbands or boyfriends. Neighbors said that many women sought the sorcerer's help believing they would make themselves richer, healthier and more sexually attractive to men. Police believe the victims -- whose ages ranged from 11 to 30 -- may have been too embarrassed to tell their families of their seeking the sorcerer's help so their disappearances were not linked to him. A large amount of them were also prostitutes.
After charging each victim $200 to $400, he would take them to a sugarcane plantation near his home and bury them in the ground up to their waist as part of a ritual. Once in the ground he strangled each woman with electrical cable. Then he drank their saliva, undressed their corpses and reburied them with their heads pointing to his home so to enhance his magical powers. Suradji told police that nine years ago he had a dream in which the ghost of his father told him to kill 70 women and drink their saliva so he could become a dukan, or mystic healer, he said.
The sorcerer was said to be widely respected in his village. Neighbours said he was often willing to help sick villagers and contribute to charitable causes. Nasib, who led police to the bodies in the field next to his home, told officers he needed to kill up to 70 women to gain supernatural powers. Now that the unearthing of 40 corpses testify to Nasib's true mania, police have asked local residents to report any more missing women and children. About 80 families in the area have reported female relatives missing, leading to fears that more bodies could be uncovered.
During their trials both Suradji and Tumini denied the slayings, saying they confessed because they could no longer bear torture by interrogators. On April 27, 1998, an Indonesian court in North Sumatra found the sorcerer guilty of Indonesia's worst killing spree. As the last of the 42 bodies was being unearthed, the deadly sorcerer was sentenced to death by firing squad.