Unmasking serial murder: a comparison of a South African murder series with characteristics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Serial Murder Database

Holland, Shakeera
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The term ‘serial killer’ brings to mind notorious criminals whose crimes are so heinous as to test the limits of the most vivid imagination and make us question their humanity. What is the reality of serial murder? In 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hosted a symposium on serial murder, which brought together international experts in the field of serial murder with the aim of clarifying and understanding this multifarious crime. On the 12th of March 2008, Gcinumzi Richman Makhwenkwe, ‘The Moffat Park Serial Murderer’ was convicted of 5 counts of murder, 3 counts of rape and 3 counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances. The Department of Forensic Medicine and Pathology of the University of the Witwatersrand, based at the Johannesburg Forensic Pathology Service (FPS) Medicolegal Mortuary Facility performed the medicolegal investigations of death in all the victims. This research report explores the characteristics of serial murder and serial murderers as documented in the literature; documents the features and characteristics of the Moffat Park murder series; compares the features of this South African murder series to those from the findings of the FBI serial murder symposium; explores the role of the forensic medical practitioner in the investigation of the Moffat Park series and serves to educate and inform forensic medical practitioners of the features of serial murder as awareness may potentially lead to earlier identification of a murder series. This could ultimately lead to earlier implementation of specialist investigative methods, earlier apprehension of the serial murderer and most importantly fewer victims.