Wed. Oct 28th, 2020

Pretoria murders: What you need to know about the “not-yet-serial” killer

Pretoria killer murdersFive people have been killed in similar fashion over the past three weeks. So why won’t police call the Pretoria murders the work of a serial killer?

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Residents of Pretoria have a killer in their midst. That’s the grim reality forming in the city after the body of a fifth homeless person was discovered on Wednesday. The reign of terror started at the beginning of June, but police are none the wiser as to who the killer actually is.

They have, however, released some key details on the case. But it’s what they are not saying that also speaks volumes. Despite cops suspecting that a “nocturnal prowler” is responsible for these actions, they are reluctant to label them a “serial killer”. Here’s why they’re holding back, and everything you need to know about the murders:

The modus operandi of the Pretoria killer

In any police investigation of this nature, the first thing to do is establish the modus operandi – a term which refers to the methods employed by the perpetrator. These repeat behaviours help police identify whether two murders are linked or not. The following patterns have been established for the Pretoria killer so far:

  • Homeless victims, all male.
  • Middle-to-senior aged targets.
  • Attacked in the night.
  • All stabbed in the upper part of the body.
  • Each victim discovered in the same location – ruling out “spree killing”.

The areas they have killed in

Muckleneuk is a small suburb of Pretoria. Four of the murders were carried out at Magnolia Dell, one of the parks in the town. The fifth one was committed at a bus terminal near the University of South Africa (UNISA) campus:

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Black dots indicates where each crime has reportedly occured – Photo: Google Maps

Defining a serial killer

The FBI has a very simple way of broadly defining a serial killer: They require them to have killed at least three people, with their crimes spanning for longer than a month and a “cooling off period” in between, where they go months – or even years – without killing again.

However, the more you delve down into the definition, the more caveats that are introduced. Many serial killers are characterised by sexual desire of the drive for notoriety. It is simply too early in the investigation to say what the potential killer is getting out of these heinous acts.

The criteria this suspect does and does not meet

Criteria Serial killer behaviour?
Killing for longer than a month Not yet – the crimes only span over
a three week period.
The body count Yes – linked to five murders, this exceeds
the FBI’s minimum requirement of three.
Sexual motivation No – no signs as of yet,
remains unlikely.
Repeat patterns of killing Yes, the killer is consistently using
the same methods of murder.
“Cooling off” period No, all crimes committed within
days of each other.
Targeting a certain group Yes, modus operandi is extremely clear.

Pretoria killer – are they a serial killer or not?

At this moment in time, the answer is no. Despite ticking a few of the boxes, the term “serial killer” isn’t fully applicable here. That may change over the course of the investigation – or indeed, if a sixth body is discovered within the next two weeks – but for now, the suspect is simply a “killer”. Which is hardly comforting, if we’re being honest.

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